Dephotex, a project funded by the European Union to develop solar-powered clothing, has been at the forefront of methods to make photovoltaic material light and flexible enough to be worn. “Flexible, light and durable solar cells embedded in fabrics are expected to be available in the very near future,” says Dephotex project manager Fanny Breuil of the Cetemmsa Technological Centre in Spain. Among the applications that are within reach: jeans that could charge a mobile phone, curtains that could power lamps, upholstery that could charge car batteries or electronic patches that release medicine for skin ailments. Dephotex research continues on techniques for embedding cells into fabrics, depending on the use.
For large stadium awnings, photovoltaic patches work better than large sheets of photovoltaic cells, for example. Studies on factors such as solar cell fabric durability, electrical properties and cost are under consideration—as are offers from major corporations interested in working with Dephotex on commercial product design.