There are two important facts that attest to the significance of this article. The first is that one of the most searched buzzwords on the internet today is “lifehack”. We’re constantly searching for ways by which we can make our lives easier, more fun, and safer. This is unarguably the case for everyone and this is well understood.
Secondly, one of the most annoying challenges with technology today is the minuscule lifespan of our batteries, especially for mobile phones. There’s always the dilemma of sacrificing performance for battery and as easy as this sounds, it is not always the ideal option.
You might be wondering, “But these have nothing to do with the topic!” Look closely and you’ll see that there’s an end in sight.
Eureka! Charge Your Phone with Your Cloth
This is not a text from a sci-fi, neither is it an expensive joke, it is the result of ongoing research at Nottingham Trent University. These researchers have successfully come up with a technology that enables small solar panels to be embedded in clothes. These panels can then be used to charge mobile devices.
If the next question you have in mind is, “Does it work?” you’re not alone. And, to answer that, yes! It does work. The research team tested the technology and attested to the fact that it was able to charge a mobile phone and a fitness tracking device.
What is the Size of the Solar Panels?
You probably have an idea of what conventional solar panels are and, as you know, it is not something that you can have on a cloth as you walk around the streets (unless you’re the Incredible Hulk). So, visualizing how this works might be a challenge. This description should do the trick.
Firstly, according to the professor leading the research team; Professor Tilak Dias, a professor from the Art and Design Department of Nottingham Trent University, the clothes would look just like any other cloth. With dimensions of about 3mm in length and 1.5mm in width, it is almost impossible for the naked eye to see what’s going on under the cloth. This means that the panels can be placed into a fine cord of twisted fibers. The yarn can then be knitted or woven (based on your preference) into textiles suitable for wearing.
Another member of the research team, Achala Satharasinghe, who developed the prototype in partial fulfillment of his Ph.D. at the University, went into detail about how the technology was going to revolutionize the wearable industry. The miniaturization of solar cells and how they harness power provide even more ways to generate power.
How Does it Charge?
About 200 miniaturized cells can generate between 2.5 and 10 volts of electricity, culminating in about 80 milliwatts of power. This was demonstrated with a proof of concept textile by the Advanced Textiles Research Group, using a textile with a size of 5 by 5 centimeters, and 200 cells.
With this proof of concept, a mobile phone and a Fitbit tracker were charged. Impressive, right? But the researchers posit that with 2000 solar cells embedded in the textile, the power would be enough to comfortably charge a smartphone.
A USB cable was used to make the connection to the phone, however, the researchers talked about how they plan to create a pocket within the cloth, with a connection that is inconspicuous, to charge the device.
Existing Technology- Dephotex
An EU-funded project, Dephotex, is at the forefront of research enabling the development of lightweight and flexible materials. As of 2014, this research work had substantial results and all that was left was to improve the efficiency and allow for flexibility.
Conclusion- You Can Charge Your Phone with Your Cloth, No More “Low Battery Excuses”
With these tiny solar cells that can be embedded in clothing, the wearer can not only generate electrical energy, but also use this electricity to charge devices such as mobile phones, smart watches, and medical trackers.
The impact of this technology goes way beyond charging mobile phones, it is a radical technology that is bound to revolutionize how we think solar energy can be harnessed. This technology is not only disruptive to the energy industry, but it is also a gamechanger for new generation clothing, fashion accessories, textile materials, and wearable tech in general.