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T-shirt charges phones using solar power

Posted: 16 Mar 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Solar Shirt  wearable  solar cell  flexible electronics 

Charging personal gadgets when you're out and about is now made easier, thanks to the Solar Shirt. Holst Centre, TNO and fashion designer Pauline van Donger have teamed up to develop the shirt that integrates solar panels and flexible electronics into an attractive shirt that can charge smartphones and other mobile devices.

The Solar Shirt generates power from 120 thin-film solar cells integrated into the fabric itself. In bright sunlight, it produces around 1W of electricity, enough to charge a typical phone in a few hours. Indoors, the shirt generates enough power to keep a battery charged, so your phone or other device is always ready when you need it. The shirt can charge smartphones, MP3 players, cameras, GPS systems and other USB-compatible handheld or portable devices. Moreover, if all your devices are charged, the electricity can be stored in the shirt's battery pack for later use.

Solar Shirt

Fashion model Ann at Paparazzi Models wears the Solar Shirt. (Source: Liselotte Fleur)

The solar cells are combined into standardised functional modules using Holst Centre's vast 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 programme on wearable applications that integrates functionalities ranging from lighting (LED/OLED), energy harvesting (PV), sensors and displays, in textile or other flexible materials.

"The solar cell modules can be mass-manufactured in a cost effective way by Roll to Roll compatible technologies and then incorporated into the fabric using familiar industrial "iron-on" techniques before the garment is stitched. Designers and garment manufacturers can arrange the modules as they like, giving them complete freedom to create their own unique designs," said Holst Centre's Managing Director Ton van Mol.

The Solar Shirt design was created by fashion designer Pauline van Dongen, a pioneer in the field of wearable technology garments. "As a designer, I'm excited by how solar cells can add to the esthetic of a garment. To date, all attempts to combine solar technology and fashion had focused on one-off haute couture designs. With Holst Centre's technology, we were able to seamlessly integrate the technology and the design so they mutually inform each other, advancing the concept and value of fashion. We've taken solar fashion from the catwalk to the high street, with an attractive yet practical garment that people could wear every day," she said.

The Solar Shirt made its first public appearance at South by South West (SXSW) Interactive in Austin. Pauline van Dongen wore the shirt during her presentation "Ready to Wear? Body Informed 3D Printed Fashion" on March 13.

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