You are here

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 how they work.

Advantages of solar textiles

In comparison with regular solar panels, solar textiles are:

  • lightweight
  • portable
  • robust
  • versatile
  • flexible

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 developed their process on a laboratory scale and have been transferring this to a bigger facility to be able to work up to pre-production level. A wide variety of applications is envisaged for the product, including large area agricultural applications, temporary accommodation (for refugees/emergency use/disaster areas), and permanent fixtures on buildings (roofs/awnings). Smaller scale applications have been proposed for both military and civilian situations. However, modest sized applications are the present focus and we invite investors and commercial companies to engage in the on-going development of prototypes for their customers and the subsequent volumetric scale-up.

For further information, please contact us.