Weaving solar cells into flexible solar powered threads could be the answer to solar fabrics. A Tokyo-based venture company, Ideal Star has come up with a way to incorporate solar cells into threads that one day will create material for use in energy-generating clothing and curtains.
Because the solar threads are coated, the need for expensive manufacturing equipment is reduced. Once Ideal Star figures out how to make their special threads longer, they will be able to be incorporated into a number of materials, for solar power generating capabilities.
Ideal Star is supported by six Japanese universities and the government. The prototype solar thread is 5cm long and a mere 0.8mm in diameter.
The core consists of polymer material and is surrounded by an electrode layer, and layers for hole transport, power-generating (this layer is made from fullerene), electron transport and another (transparent) electrode layer.
The solar powered threads currently have an efficiency of about 3% (meaning that 3% of the solar energy striking the threads can be converted to usable power). However, the company believes that it can more than triple efficiency to 10%. Ideal Star will continue to work on developing the new technology, with plans to commercialize it within five years.
There is already a market for solar powered fabrics. From handbags to backpacks, you can already get thin layers of solar cells incorporated into everyday items, used to recharge gadgets. The promise of solar curtains to power electronics within your home could be next on the horizon with solar powered threads!