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Power Hardware Science

Flexible, Fiber-Optic Solar Cell Could Be Woven Into Clothing 65

MrSeb writes "An international team of engineers, physicists, and chemists have created the first fiber-optic solar cell. These fibers are thinner than human hair, flexible, and yet they produce electricity, just like a normal solar cell. The U.S. military is already interested in weaving these threads into clothing, to provide a wearable power source for soldiers. In essence, the research team started with optical fibers made from glass — and then, using high-pressure chemical vapor deposition, injected n-, i-, and p-type silicon into the fiber, turning it into a solar cell (abstract). Functionally, these silicon-doped fiber-optic threads are identical to conventional solar cells, generating electricity from the photovoltaic effect. Whereas almost every solar cell on the market is crafted out of 2D, planar amorphous silicon on a rigid/brittle glass substrate, though, these fiber-optic solar cells have a 3D cross-section and retain the glass fiber's intrinsic flexibility. The lead researcher, John Badding of Penn State University, says the team has already produced 'meters-long fiber,' and that their new technique could be used to create 'bendable silicon solar-cell fibers of over 10 meters in length.' From there, it's simply a matter of weaving the thread into a fabric."
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Flexible, Fiber-Optic Solar Cell Could Be Woven Into Clothing

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  • by masternerdguy ( 2468142 ) on Friday December 07, 2012 @04:25PM (#42219397)
    Forget your phone, this could provide endless power for medical devices from insulin pumps to more exotic things like replacement limbs and those artificial eyes that are getting better each year (you get to see a 12x12 pixel image now! wooo, shiney). One of the problems with medical devices is finding a continuous power supply.
  • Wrong use case.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2012 @04:55PM (#42219741)

    Everyone is speculating about how this could be used in clothing, but I think this is the wrong use case. Clothing has too little sun facing surface area to produce the amounts of electricity to be more useful than existing battery tech.

    However, the military uses a lot of cloth in large sun facing swaths. Ever seen a tent city? Tents are the perfect use case for this tech. Large surface areas, can be oriented towards the sun, rarely washed, never ironed, and only folded up for transport or storage. Integrating the solar tech into the fabric instead of an extra add on package would be ideal.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."