Wearable Photovoltaics: The Latest in Solar Device Innovation

Photo from RIKEN: https://16iwyl195vvfgoqu3136p2ly-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/water-500.jpg 

Organizations and individuals focused on solar innovation are bringing incredible advancements in solar technology to the world. Solar news is fascinating environmentally-conscious individuals everywhere. Taking advantage of solar energy to bring comfort and convenience to persons without damaging the environment is the way of the future. Wearable photovoltaics are cutting-edge devices in terms of solar innovation. How they work and why they work is intriguing. Solar innovation is sure to bring unprecedented changes to the world in the near future, and there are numerous advancements in solar which are here right now. Solar technology and wearable trends in fashion do, in fact, go hand in hand. Welcome to the exciting world of solar!  

Wearable Health Trackers Combined With Solar Technology  

Wearable health and fitness trackers have become all of the rage in recent years. People want to stay healthy and in shape, and being able to wear a tracker has become extremely beneficial. The ability to track steps while walking, with accuracy, is amazing in itself. But technology is demanding change when it comes to fashion – customers want to know how products are created; they want to be able to easily obtain said products; and they want the product to offer convenience. This has led to a shift in goals when it comes to product creators, and a big focus on solar innovation is evident. In this respect, there is no shortage of solar news to bring attention to. Solar innovation has become a topic which people everywhere are paying attention to. Why? The short answer is simple: the need to protect the planet is palpable, and solar energy is one way in which we can act and function with environmental awareness. Our planet is filled with individuals recognizing the need to “go solar.” Solar has not only become popular – it has become quite fashionable. Innovations in solar are appealing to persons and organizations all over the world.  

Photovoltaics & Solar Innovation:  What Do They Do?  

Most have heard of brands such as Fitbit, but in regards to solar innovation, the newest solar technology just so happens to be ultra-thin wearable photovoltaics. What exactly are ultra-thin wearable photovoltaics and how do they relate to solar energy? These innovative solar-focused devices are able to generate solar electricity. Even more fascinating is the fact that wearable photovoltaics can generate solar electricity while they are sopping wet or exposed to mechanical stress (read: if one mistakenly becomes trapped in the washing machine, the device owner need not worry. If a person wants to take a dip in the pool while wearing their latest piece of solar technology, they can trust it won’t be destroyed – solar power can still be generated).  

Solar innovation is the way of the future and the latest products (wearable photovoltaics) are demonstrating that this is truly the case.  We can thank scientists from RIKEN, Japanese research institute and the University of Tokyo, who have worked together to create these ultra-thin photovoltaics which come wrapped in waterproof, stretchable films. As previously mentioned, these have the ability to generate solar electricity all of the time, even when wet. How? Using a stretchable material which is able to be woven into wearable textiles allows for permeability. Couple this notion with an acrylic-based elastomer coating, and you have the ability to stop water infiltration and allow light in. This is solar innovation at its finest!  

Photovoltaics Ace The Test 

Researchers in solar technology knew that the photovoltaics would have to have strong solar energy efficiency; accordingly, they subjected the photovoltaics to numerous tests. The findings indicated an energy efficacy of 7.9% and the researchers realized that the efficiency of double-side-coated devices diminishes merely by 5.4% after being immersed in water for two hours (see research findings in Nature Energy here). Other fascinating discoveries indicated that the solar device efficiency stayed at 80% even after more than 50% mechanic compression with 100 minutes of water exposure. The numbers are quite impressive.  

The Science Behind Wearable Solar Devices 

Flexible, thin organic photovoltaic cells are based on material known as PNTz4T. These cells are able to provide power to health monitors which are woven into clothing, as per Takao Someya. Takao Someya is the leader of the research group at RIKEN. When the cells provide power to health monitors, body temperature and heartbeats can then be recorded. A unique benefit is that medical concerns can be detected early. Textile-compatible photovoltaics offer everything needed to supply steady power of several milliwatts.  

Having good efficacy and mechanical sturdiness is important. Having good efficacy and sturdiness mechanically in addition to excellent environmental stability is even better.  A power source system for wearable solar devices is obtainable because of these organic photovoltaics which are lightweight as well as washable.  

Solar Fiber Project: Combining Street Fashion With Solar  

Certain projects have completely shifted their focus to solar energy usage in street fashion. The Solar Fiber project, for example, is based in Amsterdam and brings together scientists, artists and inventors who have the goal of nurturing innovation. Solar Fiber happened to win the first prize from L&P Group, which sponsored a four day event called Ideas Waiting to Happen. This is an occasion focused on bringing together creative individuals to develop new technologies – and this is where solar energy comes into play. The apparent goal has become to harness solar energy via “smart” textiles. When we walk or exercise using these unique devices, kinetic energy is generated which is converted into electrical energy. The electrical energy can be used to power devices such as phones. Thanks to projects such as this one, and scientists such as those at RIKEN, it seems that we will only continue to discover the ways in which solar can be used to bring more convenience into our lives. Solar energy fibers and fashion technology are a great match.  

Solar Energy Fibers & Fashion Technology: Benefits for Everyone 

As demonstrated, solar energy fibers have become a major development in fashion technology. Harnessing solar energy via wearable devices allows for the convenient, environmentally-friendly conversion of sunlight into electricity. Initially, it may have seemed as though this solar energy-focused technology would primarily benefit those looking for outdoor wearable gear, such as hikers. It might have seemed that solar technology could only help people who spend the majority of their day in the sun. However, the notion of wearable innovative solar technology which focuses on the benefits of solar energy is gaining traction with a mass-market fashion base. It is gaining traction with individuals who are environmentally-conscious. The market is larger than many anticipated.  

Kenjiro Fukuda, RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science, provides thoughts and goals on photovoltaics and solar innovation.  

“We very much hope that these washable, lightweight and stretchable organic photovoltaics will open a new avenue for use as a long-term power source system for wearable sensors and other devices.”  

Hopefully, Fukuda’s thoughts will prove to be the new reality. Solar innovation is going to present many new opportunities as it relates to solar. Stay up to date on solar news to discover the latest creations in regards to solar. It is becoming more and more obvious that solar truly is the way of the future.  







Photo from RIKEN: https://16iwyl195vvfgoqu3136p2ly-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/water-500.jpg 



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Carissa lives in Florida with her dachshund and enjoys traveling all over the country. She has been a writer for more than a decade, previously having worked for the Walt Disney Company. Her interests include exploring National Parks, hiking, crafting and cooking.


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