One of the biggest problems with most solar clothing is that it usually looks drab. This is primarily due to the fact that the solar panels used are rigid and bulky, so incorporating them into an article of clothing is difficult, and usually results in a piece of clothing that, while functional, is not very stylish. Fortunately a new clothing line from The Netherlands is in the works that promises to solve that problem.
How Solar Clothing Works
Solar clothing is generally made from a specific type of cloth material that incorporates solar cells. Solar cells are, of course, small panels that collect the sun’s rays and transform them into a usable power source. Generally when people think of solar panels they immediately envision the huge, glass and silicon structures that rest on top of houses or office buildings, which were, naturally, the first form of solar cells. Over time, however, as advances in technology were made, the cells became smaller and smaller until, today, they are small enough to be sewn into clothing.
As the sunlight hits the solar panel’s photovoltaic cells, electrons from the sun’s rays are traditionally transferred to a bank of batteries for storage. In the case of wearable solar clothing, however, the electrons are instead transferred directly to a device or an external charger. One of the drawbacks to this type of solar energy, of course, is the lack of energy storage and the fact that the system will not work without direct access to the rays of the sun.
Who is Making this New Clothing?
The solar coat and dress talked about here are being made by a group led by Christiaan Holland from Dutch creative agency Gelderland Valoriseert along with Pauline Van Dongen, a Dutch fashion designer. Also involved in the project is solar panel expert Gertjan Jongerden and a number of students from the University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.
There are currently two different prototypes for this new line of wearable solar clothing: a coat and a dress. Rather than simply sewing solar panels into clothing, fashion designer Van Dongen studied human cells and discovered their layered structure, eventually incorporating that information into her designs.
Instead of the typical odd looking solar powered t-shirt, Van Dongen’s coat looks like something straight out of the Matrix; with flaps that open at both the shoulders and waist to reveal hidden solar cells. When not in use, the flaps can be closed to hide the panels, and turn the coat into an almost nondescript article of clothing. Because of the rigidity of the 48 solar cells, the coat was created using a combination of wool and leather to protect the cells while complementing the wearer.
The dress also uses flexible solar panels and is again made from leather and wool. The flexible solar cells are less efficient, but are easier to integrate into the clothing and, as a result, provide for more comfort for the wearer. The cells have been embedded in such a way that they are barely noticeable which is another first for solar clothing.
The jacket features 48 solar cells and is estimated to be able to fully charge a phone battery in just two hours when exposed to direct sunlight. The dress, which is slightly less efficient, might be able to do the same in 3.
As the potential clothing line is still in development, no details have been released as to when they may become available for sale to the public, but they are certainly one of the most wearable lines of solar clothing to have been invented yet.
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