More than just clothes! Tiny solar cells embedded in clothes can charge a mobile phone.

Nottingham Trent University has developed a way to embed miniaturised solar cells. The tiny solar cells are only 3 x 1.5 mm and small enough to be placed into yarn and then be knitted and woven into textiles. Since each individual cell is encapsulated inside a transparent resin cylinder just bigger than the cell, which allows the textile fabric to be washed and worn like any other form of clothing. 

The tiny solar panels are almost invisible to the naked eyes and cannot be felt by the wearer. For all intents and purpose, garments would look identical to any others, but the only one big difference is that it has capability to generate electricity.

The technology has been tested and proven to charge a mobile phone and a Fitbit, and in the future, it could be adopted in wearable electronic devices.
Cited: Nottingham Trent University
Project lead Professor Tilak Dias, from the university’s School of Art and Design, said “ By embedding miniaturised solar cells into yarn we can create clothing and fabric that generate power in a sustainable way. This could do away with the need to plug items into wall sockets and reduce the demand on the grid while cutting carbon emission.”
Cited: Nottingham Trent University
The electrical power demand for small e-textile has always been its Achilles heel and this technology will allow people to use smart textiles while on the move. The university's Advanced Textiles Research Group made a proof-of-concept textile measuring 5 x 5 cm size which contains 200 solar cells, and it can generate 2.5-10 volts and up to 80 miliwatts in power. This proved powerful enough to charge a mobile phone and a Fitbit. 

The concept uses a USB cable to connect to a phone, but the researchers said they hoped to create a pocket containing a hidden connection that would act as a charging dock made of fabric, enabling devices to be charged without a cable.

Researcher Achala Satharasinghe said: "This is an exciting technology which could revolutionise the way we think about solar power, clothing and wearable technology. With the availability of miniaturised solar cells we can generate power in a range of new ways, by utilising things like clothing, fashion accessories, textiles and more. It will allow mobile devices to be charged in environmentally-friendly ways which are more convenient for consumers than ever before."

Professor Tilak Dias said: “ Let’s imagine that you have a garment which can monitor your health especially the heart rate variability, skin temperature, blood sugar. I think this is next step for textiles this is going to be integrating electronics. We have taken that first step towards integrating it into fibers and yarns which are the heart of any textile fabric.”

References: 
Nottingham Trent University. (2018) .“Flea-sized solar panels embedded in clothes can charge a mobile phone.” Retrieved from https://m.techxplore.com/news/2018-12-flea-sized-solar-panels-embedded-mobile.html
2018-12-18