Scientists Combine Energy Storage and Solar Cells in Tiny Fibers

solar-fabric-1Scientists developed a unique fabric, which can harness solar energy and store it for later use.

There are quite a number of crowdfunding projects out there that plan to sell items of clothing with solar panels attached onto them. Although the demand for portable, rechargeable source of power is ever-so-huge, somehow, it is not surprising, that many of these projects do not succeed.

It is so difficult to make solar panels look good or fashionable. At the same time, hiding them somewhere within the clothing prevents them from being exposed to sunlight, and therefore defeats their purpose.

A team of scientists at University of Central Florida, designed a device that might just hold the solution to all of the above. They developed a special type of fiber, which captures and stores the energy from the sun.

Essentially, it is a a set of very thin ribbons that can be easily incorporated into clothing. These ribbons can act as solar panels and energy storage devices.

The ribbons, also referred to as filaments or fibers, are made of copper. They have two sides- one side is a solar cell, the other side is a supercapacitor. As soon as light hits the solar cell, the electrons are immediately transmitted to the supercapacitor side for storage. This supercapacitor has an energy density of 1.15 mWh cm3 and power density of 243 mW c3.

The invention is truly remarkable, and it definitely has a place on the market. The developers believe that it can do wonders for the military. A small example, currently soldiers carry enormous loads of batteries around the hot deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq.

But of course, these guys are not the only ones, who can benefit. Many of us have been longing for this type of device that can feed energy to our smartphones. End of continuous search for charging spots, or endless carrying of cables. And to place the cherry on the ice-cream, the device will make us all look super cool- like those guys from Back to the Future.

More technical details on the technology can be found in the article published in Nature Communications.

Image (c) University of Central Florida

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