Technology (UPN: 3)

Technology An innovative approach to make textiles electrically conducting
Organisation Type Company
Organisation Region European Union
Overview A new process for the direct integration of solar cells onto textile fabrics. It has been accomplished in such a way that the process can be readily scaled up to production level. 
Description

Background:

It is by now almost universally accepted that there is an urgent need worldwide to harness renewable and sustainable forms of energy. In the majority of solar cells, the semiconducting layers are sandwiched between flat glass plates, but glass plates are fragile, heavy and inflexible. They have to be stored, transported and assembled on site with considerable care. The construction of lighter, more flexible cells, that are still nevertheless highly durable, has attracted significant commercial attention. The move towards solar cell products based on thin flexible materials provides an opportunity that could be keenly embraced by the textile industry.

There are already several examples of the use of solar textiles. Some approches consist in the attachment of the solar plastic films to textiles. In addition, a sail has been designed, whereby flexible solar cells are attached to the sailcloth. However, because in all the examples a plastic film – albeit a thin one – has been attached to the textile fabric, the handle and even the mechanical performance of the solar textile so formed are nearly always compromised – often quite severely. The challenge, therefore, is to integrate solar cells directly onto textile fabrics, and this is the challenge that was taking up. The goal is particularly attractive, if commodity textile fabrics can be utilised, as opposed to specially constructed high-performance fabrics.

The proposed technology enables to achieve lighter, more flexible cells and more durable construction of solar textiles.

Key characteristics are:

  • Process can be realized at low temperatures which is an advantage for commodity textile using fibres that are sensitive to high temperature;
  • Production would be achieved through a roll-to-roll process, starting with untreated fabric and finishing with solar fabric. The roll-to-roll process should in principle be able to be added to the end of a textile fabric production process.

The proposed concept has now been shown in the lab. The development work has been done mainly on woven polyester fabrics. The company has begun to optimize the process, to produce commercially attractive efficiencies.

Possible Applications:

Electrically conductive textile for horticulture applications, Electrically conductive textile for constructions, Electrically conductive textile for Disaster/humanitarian relief uses., Provision of power in remote locations, Electrically conductive textile for Military/defence applications, Electrically conductive textile for the leisure market

Competitive Advantage

A completely new approach to develop flexible textile fabrics, into which solar cells have been directly incorporated as opposed to solar cells deposited onto a thin plastic film, and then the solar plastic film is attached to textile.

Development Stage:

Proof-of-concept or Laboratory prototype

Intellectual Property:

Worldwide patented technology

Innovator A company specialized in the development of solar cells textile. Company is willing to license its technology to companies for specific markets and applications.
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