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Adding Solar Cells to Textiles

Why textiles?

Solar cells are typically sandwiched between glass plates, but glass plates are heavy, fragile and inflexible. So, increasing attention is being paid to the construction of lighter, flexible substrates for solar cells.

Textiles are appealing as flexible substrates in that they have a huge variety of uses, ranging from clothing and household articles to highly sophisticated technical applications.

Textiles can be produced by a wide variety of processes, such as weaving, knitting, braiding and felting, and these processes offer enormous versatility for allowing a fabric to conform to even complex shapes. Not only can textile fabrics be rolled up for storage and transport and then unrolled on site; they can also be readily installed into structures with complex geometries.

How a solar textile works

When light shines on a solar textile, the solar cells on the textile fabric convert some of the light into electricity.

See: Solar Cells for more info on PhotoVoltaic cells.

Advantages of solar textiles

In comparison with regular solar panels, solar textiles are:

  • lightweight
  • portable
  • robust
  • versatile
  • provide flexibility

The fabric can be transported easily, without the same degree of care and specialised packaging that regular solar panels require.

When the fabric is not in use, it can be rolled up.

When required for use again, it can be unrolled and connected to the item to be powered – or to batteries to be charged.

The fabric can easily be suspended, and shaped to perform functions that are additional to power generation, such as shelter from sun, wind and rain, aesthetic enhancement of various structures, buildings, etc.

Stage of development

PTL have nearly completed the development of the process on a laboratory scale, and will soon be in a position to work up the process to production level. A patent was granted in 2010. A wide variety of applications is envisaged for the product, including agricultural applications, aerospace, mounting for temporary accommodation (for refugees/emergency use/disaster areas), permanent fixtures on buildings (roofs/awnings) and military and defence applications.

Investors and commercial partners are now being invited to engage in the on-going development of prototypes and the volumetric scale-up stage.

For further information, please contact us.