A team of designers, including one of Indian-origin, is developing solar-powered clothes from natural fibres that can charge a number of devices, including phones, tablets and GPS units.
Eulanda Sanders and Ajoy Sarkar in Colorado State University’s Department of Design and Merchandising, as well as four of their students, are making prototypes for solar-charging apparel that can be worn while biking, snowboarding, skiing or hiking.
Clothing with solar panels has been developed before, but these duds usually rely on petroleum—based materials rather than natural fibres, Discovery News reported.
A prime example is California-based Silvrlining’s GO Solar Power Collection, which puts solar power into microsuede sportswear. While certainly cool-looking, the director’s jacket costs 1,180 dollars.
Instead, Sanders and Sarkar want to produce clothes from cotton and linen that are safe and strong enough to handle the elements. According to the university, the group was able to modify natural materials to make them more durable. From there, they incorporated flexible solar panels within the apparel.
Their goal with these greener clothes is ultimately to make solar clothing that’s not only comfortable and cool looking but also highly functional and easy to clean. With help from a 15,000-dollar grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the CSU group has already made several prototype jackets and a vest. This weekend, that apparel will go on display at the EPA’s National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, DC. The team has also entered a sustainable design competition there, competing with entries from across the nation. Winning means a shot at taking their solar clothing to the market.