When you think about how fashion will work alongside technology in the future, it might be hard to break from science-fiction-heavy ideas. However, fashionably using solar, wind and even kinetic energy to charge devices, keep us connected and even donate our energy to non-profits is being explored by a number of design houses.
Meg Grant, of Solar Fiber, says she and co-collaborators Aniela Hoitink, Marina Toeters, Ralf Jacobs, and Professor Derek Schlettwein from Giessen University are already pushing the textile boundaries in terms of solar fibres.
“If you look around you, textiles cover so many surfaces, so why not give them a ‘super power’ that can take advantage of this, like solar energy harvesting,” says Grant.
The idea behind Solar Fiber is a flexible photovoltaic fibre that converts sunlight energy into electrical energy via a yarn that can be worked into all sorts of fabrics. Its latest prototype is the solar shawl which displays the amount of energy being generated in real-time.
Grant says the project is 100% part-time, voluntary and open-source and prototypes are currently only capable of generating tiny amounts of energy. “We are open-source because we believe that this kind of technology could be so game-changing that it should be in the public domain,” says Grant.
After graduating from ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem, the Netherlands in 2010, Pauline van Dongen started her own womenswear label. Working with companies from the fields of science and innovation, van Dongen aims to merge fashion and technology and like Grant, her focus is on solar textiles. She and her team call it Wearable Solar, clothing that gives people an opportunity to generate sustainable energy through what they wear and charge their tech on the go.
The Wearable Solar collection currently consists of two designs, a coat and a dress made of wool and leather, which produce energy through their integrated solar cells. The coat incorporates 48 rigid solar cells and the dress has 72 flexible solar cells. When worn in full sun for two hours, both garments can generate enough energy to allow a typical smartphone to be 100% charged. The solar cell compartments can be opened and revealed to the sun when needed and folded back when they are not being used.
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