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Solar Cell Textile Could Give Wearable Tech New Life

Wearable technology is quickly taking fashion by storm, and there may soon be a way to power electronic apparel and accessories indefinitely.

According to Chemistry World, scientists in China have developed a new solar cell textile that can be woven into clothing, and can withstand being bent more than 200 times—all while retaining its power generation efficiency.

Researchers are looking into dye-sensitized solar cells in which the dye pigment absorbs sunlight to generate electrons before passing on the charges to semiconductors. Essentially, when light shines on a solar textile, the cells on the fabric convert the light into electricity.

Compared with regular solar panels, solar textiles are lighter weight, more versatile and more flexible, making them more appealing for fabrics required to conform to the body, for example.

Huisheng Peng, a professor of Department of Macromolecular Science and PI of Laboratory of Advanced Materials at Shanghai’s Fudan University has been working to develop polymer solar cells. Currently, the most common solar cells are made from crystalline silicon, but the polymer version is lighter weight, more flexible and easier to manufacture.

With the polymer solar cell, the textile can be “charged” on either side, but researchers are still working on getting the solar cell to be more efficient at converting solar energy into electricity. If they are able scale the size of the textile up for practical use and see that it sustains the necessary energy, the solar cell textiles could be used in anything from coats to tents.