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Solar Shirt: the phone charger you wear

Out There | March 20, 2015 | By:

Photo: Liselotte Fleur
Photo: Liselotte Fleur

Created in collaboration by the Dutch independent open-innovation R&D center, Holst Centre; the nonprofit, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO); and fashion designer Pauline van Dongen, the Solar Shirt brings the worlds of high tech and high-street fashion together. It combines solar panels and flexible electronics in an attractive, off-the-peg T-shirt with the capability to charge a smartphone or another portable device.

The Solar Shirt generates power from 120 thin-film solar cells integrated into the fabric itself. In bright sunlight, it produces around 1 W of electricity, which is enough to charge a typical phone in a few hours. Indoors, the shirt generates enough power to keep a battery charged, so a small electronic device maintains enough power to continue operating.

Smartphones, MP3 players, cameras, GPS systems and other USB-compatible handheld or portable devices can be connected. Electricity can be stored in the shirt’s battery pack for later use, as well.

The solar cells are combined into standardized functional modules using Holst Centre’s solar cell know-how developed within the Solliance alliance and its stretchable electronics technology for integrating electronics into fabrics. This technology is part of a research program on wearable applications that integrates functionalities including lighting (LED/OLED), energy harvesting (PV), sensors and displays in textile or other flexible materials.

The Solar Shirt design was created as an alternative to one-off haute couture designs by offering a practical garment that people could wear every day, van Dongen says. The extremely thin electronics are stretchable, flexible and washable, and they can be integrated into fabrics using standard high-volume techniques that are well known in the textile industry, according to Holst Centre’s Margreet de Kok.

The Solar Shirt made its first public appearance at South by South West (SXSW) Interactive in Austin March 13-17 2015.

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