Materials Science

Weaving solar energy into fabrics

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Science  30 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6187, pp. 985
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6187.985-c

A solar cell textile integrated in a fabric.

PHOTO: S. PAN ET AL. ANGEWANDTE CHEMIE INTERNATIONAL EDITION 53 (30 APRIL 2014) © 2014 WILEY-VCH VERLAG GMBH & CO. KGAA, WEINHEIM

Imagine a sweatshirt that charges your cell phone or a sail that powers a ship's radio. To bring solar-powered fabric closer to reality, Pan et al. modified the standard design of a dye-sensitized solar cell by sandwiching the dye and electrolyte between two flexible electrodes. Earlier approaches twisted the electrodes together into cylinders. Instead, Pan et al. stacked grids of titanium dioxide-coated titanium wires and carbon nanotube fibers, making it easier to connect multiple cells. With a solid-state electrolyte, the cells lost less than 6% of their efficiency over 300 hours of operation in air. As a proof of principle, the authors used several woven cells connected in series to power a red light–emitting diode.

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 53, 10.1002/anie.201402561 (2014).

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