Researchers at the U.K.’s Nottingham Trent University (NTU) have developed an e-textile that’s embedded with 1,200 tiny photovoltaic cells. Led by Dr. Theodore Hughes-Riley, associate professor of Electronic Textiles at the Nottingham School of Art & Design, the experimental project is introducing solar power the garments and accessories. According to the researchers, the miniature panels can generate 400 mWatts of electrical energy, which is capable of charging a smart phone. The e-textile could be incorporated into clothing, such as a jacket, or an accessory such as a purse or backpack.
With integrated wiring that’s strong and highly flexible, the product is capable of withstanding 40°C washing in a machine with other garments. This was accomplished by wrapping the 5 x 1.5 mm photovoltaic cells in discreet and waterproof polymer resin. A breathable material was used to test the prototype, a fabric that was also chemically stabilized with a silicon-based structure of each small solar panel.
After several testing rounds, the e-textile successfully generated 335.3 mWatts in 0.86 sunlight and 394 mWatts under total sun exposure. The research was conducted jointly with Dr. Neranga Abeywickrama, a postdoctoral research fellow in Energy Harvesting and Management in Textiles, and NTU Ph.D. candidate Matholo Kgatuke.