Imagine if your clothing was able to generate all the energy your portable electronic devices need. While these fabrics will help you save a lot of money that you’d be spending on outdoor chargers, it would also do wonders for the electrical grid. Though, the idea seems too futuristic at present, a team of researchers at Penn State University have developed a unique thread that can generate renewable solar energy and can also be woven into fabric materials.
The silicon-based optical fiber with solar cell capabilities has been shown to be scalable to many meters in length, opening the doors to the creation of flexible, curved, or even twisted solar energy generating fabrics. The technology creates a new kind of an optical fiber, thinner than the width of human hair, with its own integrated electronics, thereby bypassing the need to integrate fiber-optics with conventional chips. The crystalline silicon semiconductor fiber are made using high-pressure chemistry techniques to create a photovoltaic device that can generate electrical power by converting solar radiation into DC electricity.
The fibers can be easily woven together in different shapes with a wide range of applications such as power generation, battery charging, chemical sensing and biomedical devices.