Innovative Fashion: Solar-Powered Clothing

Catch the light with solar-powered clothing.

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The limits of modern fashion are being pushed and redefined every day! Innovative Fashion, our latest column, seeks to share how materials, production, design, and function are being revolutionized around the world. Consider it a little preview of the future of fashion.

(In case you missed it, check out the previous post in this series, where we talk about 3-D printed fabrics).

We’ve definitely had our fair share of sunny days this summer! And no hard feelings to our friendly neighborhood star, but sometimes the weather’s just gotta chill.

But don’t sweat it — one silver lining may be just around the corner.

Innovators in the design and energy industries have been hard at work for more than a decade refining different forms of solar cell fabric.

The bulky solar panels we’re used to seeing — covering rooftops, streetlamps, fields — serve the same function as these newly developed, flexible textiles. They both harness the sun, convert its limitless energy into the electricity needed for powering our everyday lives, and do so in a wholeheartedly sustainable way.

Solar cell fabric can provide just enough power to charge your phone, which is a major plus in our book! Think about it — no more worries about losing battery life. What a relief! Just plug your phone into your clothing and go about your day. As long as the sun keeps shining, you’ll be charged and at the ready.

As we mentioned, there are a variety of different types of solar textiles. Next, we’ll explain a few of those innovations in detail to show you the works!

Scientists at the University of Central Florida have crafted a nanofiber copper “energy-smart ribbon” that combines solar cells on one side and batteries for energy storage on the other. This very tiny fiber can be woven through a loom and eventually, into a shiny new solar jacket!

Across the country at the University of California, Berkeley, a team constructed a truly remarkable solar cell using tiny rods suspended in plastic. They’re relatively easy to make as well, requiring a simple flask and room temperature, which rules out the restrictions of more complex manufacture.

And through the collaboration of designer Marianne Fairbanks and organic chemistry professor Trisha Andrew, another solar textile was created using a sheet of fabric and four coatings of special chemicals designed to conduct electricity and absorb light.

The idea of being able to use our clothes to power our lives is just so unique! To even imagine this concept is to travel years into the future — but the building blocks are all here

We can’t wait to see where solar textiles will go, and where they will take us! As for now, though, we’re happy just soaking up the sun.

What do you think?

Would you rock a solar-powered t-shirt? How would you style it? Think this is super cool? We’re right there with you. Let us know what you think about solar-powered fashion in the comments — meet ya there!

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