Clothing Powered by Light: A Breakthrough in Wearable Tech

By: | May 29th, 2024

Researchers cut and assembled tiny solar cells on thin, flexible circuit boards before sealing them in a protective polymer to create a fiber-like strand that was woven with nylon into a small textile. Credit: Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Imagine a world where your clothes aren’t just comfortable and stylish, but also functional. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) have made significant progress towards this vision with a breakthrough process for creating powered wearable fibers.

This new technology paves the way for a new generation of wearables that are seamlessly integrated into clothing. These clothes could be equipped with features like:

  • Battery-powered health monitors: Imagine a shirt that continuously monitors your heart rate, eliminating the need for bulky external devices.
  • Solar-powered heating: Clothing that generates its own heat could be a game-changer for people working in cold environments.
  • Integrated communication for soldiers: Soldiers could have hands-free audio and video recording capabilities woven right into their uniforms.

The key to this innovation lies in the development of scalable methods for producing fibers embedded with batteries and solar cells. These fibers are thin, flexible, and designed to withstand washing and everyday wear, all while maintaining breathability and comfort.

Previously, the rigid nature of solar cell technology posed a major challenge. The researchers overcame this hurdle by creating miniaturized solar cells on flexible circuits. These cells are then encased in a protective polymer, resulting in a fiber-like strand that can be woven into textiles.

While this is a proof-of-concept, the implications are vast. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the wearables industry, impacting healthcare, sports, fashion, and even national security.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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