Researchers have discovered a unique method of integrating solar cells into fabric that could be used to develop lighter, more power-efficient wearable electronics.
A team of scientists from Fudan University and Tongii University in Shanghai created the flexible solar cells using a stacking method that eliminated many of the barriers faced in developing such technology.
The research, published in Angewandte Chemie, demonstrates that stacking electrodes into layers allows the creation of longer, more efficient fabrics, compared to previous methods.
Thread-like solar cells that have been produced in the past have had little practical application as they rely on twisting two electrically conducting fibres together as electrodes.
This method means any solar cell fabric is both time-consuming to create and difficult to make into any length greater than a few millimetres.
By stacking the textile electrodes into layers, the researchers were able to twist the material into a strong enough thread to be woven into a textile.
"A metal–textile electrode that was made from micrometer-sized metal wires was used as a working electrode, while the textile counter electrode was woven from highly aligned carbon nanotube fibers with high mechanical strengths and electrical conductivities," the abstract to the research paper reads.
"This stacked textile unexpectedly exhibited a unique deformation from a rectangle to a parallelogram, which is highly desired in portable electronics."
The researchers have already used small patches of the solar cell fabric to power an LED light.