Some really cool solar “thread” is being developed at Penn State University. Currently, researchers there believe these “threads”- actually fiber optic strands- can be as long as about 10 meters in length, and thinner than a human hair. Each strand is a long solar cell integrated into a fiber optic structure. By itself, it can convert solar energy to electricity; and these strands/fibers can be woven into flexible fabric that can collect/convert even more solar energy into electricity.
According to John Badding, project leader, and a professor of chemistry at Penn State University….”Long, fiber-based solar cells give us the potential to do something we couldn’t really do before: We can take the silicon fibers and weave them together into a fabric with a wide range of applications such as power generation, battery charging, chemical sensing, and biomedical devices.” This material could then be connected to electronic devices to power them and charge their batteries. This would be of special interest to the military and other highly portable applications.
Another advantage of this technology is its ability to better respond to incoming light. A typical solar cell has only one flat surface, and that is what responds to the ambient solar radiation. If the light does not strike it at the right angles, that solar radiation is lost. A flexible, curved solar-cell fabric would not be as dependent upon where the light is coming from or where the sun is in the sky, thus making for more time during the day in which solar energy can be collected and converted to electricity.
Imagine where else such fabric might be employed to convert solar energy into electricity. You might be able to sit in a sunny field, connect your jacket to your cell phone and use it all afternoon without drawing down your battery; or maybe even run your laptop!
“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.”
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