Eindhoven (the Netherlands) and Austin (Texas, USA), March 15, 2015 - Ever had the frustration of your phone, camera or GPS battery going flat when you're out and about? That could soon be a thing of the past thanks to the Solar Shirt – the follow-up project after Wearable Solar. Created in collaboration by Holst Centre, TNO and renowned fashion designer Pauline van Dongen, the shirt brings the worlds of high tech and high-street fashion together. It combines solar panels and flexible electronics into an attractive, off-the-peg T-shirt for everyday wear that can charge your smartphone or other portable devices.
The Solar Shirt generates power from 120 thin-film solar cells integrated into the fabric itself. In bright sunlight, it produces around 1 W of electricity – enough to charge a typical phone in a few hours. Indoors, the shirt generates enough power to keep a battery charged – so your phone or other device is always ready when you need it. The shirt can charge smartphones, MP3 players, cameras, GPS systems and other USB-compatible handheld or portable devices. And if all your devices are charged, the electricity can be stored in the shirt's battery pack for later use.
The solar cells are combined into standardized functional modules using Holst Centre's vast solar cell know-how developed within the Solliance alliance and its stretchable electronics technology for integrating electronics into fabrics. This technology is part of a research program on wearable applications that integrates functionalities ranging from lighting (LED/OLED), energy harvesting (PV), sensors and displays, in textile or other flexible materials.
"The solar cell modules can be mass-manufactured in a cost effective way by Roll to Roll compatible technologies and then incorporated into the fabric using familiar industrial "iron-on" techniques before the garment is stitched. Designers and garment manufacturers can arrange the modules as they like, giving them complete freedom to create their own unique designs," says Holst Centre's Managing Director Ton van Mol.
The Solar Shirt design was created by fashion designer Pauline van Dongen, a pioneer in the field of wearable technology garments. "Wearing solar cells lets us harness the sun's potential energy and become a power source ourselves. As a designer, I'm excited by how solar cells can add to the esthetic of a garment. To date, all attempts to combine solar technology and fashion had focused on one-off haute couture designs. With Holst Centre's technology, we were able to seamlessly integrate the technology and the design so they mutually inform each other – advancing the concept and value of fashion. We've taken solar fashion from the catwalk to the high street, with an attractive yet practical garment that people could wear every day," she says.
"Our technology enables extremely thin electronics that are stretchable, flexible and washable. It can be integrated into fabrics using standard high-volume techniques that are well known in the textile industry. The maturity of the technology means textile manufactures could bring functional fabrics to market in a matter of months using existing production facilities. Pauline is one of the leading names in wearable technology, and her design shows how technology and fashion can complement each other to create desirable clothing that has a function," adds Holst Centre's Margreet de Kok.
The Solar Shirt made its first public appearance at South by South West (SXSW) Interactive in Austin March 13-17 2015. Pauline van Dongen wore the shirt during her presentation "Ready to Wear? Body Informed 3D Printed Fashion" on March 13.