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Solar-powered jacket needs no battery

EcoNote | January 23, 2023 | By:

In a program called “The Wardrobe of the Future,” students at Finland’s Aalto University are experimenting with the development of wearable technologies and other innovations that may define what we may choose to wear someday. 

A new sun-powered jacket has hidden solar cells underneath the textile layer and is capable of powering wearable devices without any batteries. Photo: Aalto University. 

There are many wearable technology, smart textiles and e-textiles applications that are already available and widely used in areas as diverse as sports, workwear and health and wellbeing. But the sensors, devices and visual effects that are added into textiles need a power source. That power typically comes from batteries, but the universities researchers believe that solar cells could make smart textiles energy autonomous. 

The logical way to integrate photovoltaics, the research team says, is to attach solar cells onto the front surface of a textile to ensure maximum energy harvesting. However, this significantly compromises the aesthetics: a black- or silver-colored solar cell will inevitably dominate the look of the textile or garment.

In Aalto’s multi-disciplinary Sun-powered Textiles project, the solution is to hide the solar cells underneath a textile layer. While the solar cell is hidden from view, it’s still producing enough energy to power wearable devices. The solar cell textiles have also endured up to 50 washes in a washing machine with no damage.

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