Scientists create solar cell fiber that could potentially be woven into cloth

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, December 7, 2012 15:35 EDT
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Electricity. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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An international team of scientists led by a University of Pennsylvania professor said Thursday that they’ve created a unique new fiber thinner than a human hair that can capture energy from the sun and convert it into electricity.

Their research on this new solar cell breakthrough was published this week in a subscriber-only preview available to the readers of the scientific journal Advanced Materials.

“Long, fiber-based solar cells give us the potential to do something we couldn’t really do before,” Professor John Badding said in a media advisory. “We can take the silicon fibers and weave them together into a fabric with a wide range of applications such as power generation, battery charging, chemical sensing, and biomedical devices.”

The breakthrough was achieved using high-pressure chemical vapors to help inject different types of silicon into microscopic pores in optical fiber, creating a flexible thread that reacts just like a standard solar cell.

While the technology does seem to hold promise for the future of mobile electricity generation, it’s not clear if the materials can actually be woven into a wearable fabric. Photos of the invention showed a single fiber coiled up, not an actual, foldable tapestry.

Also, one has to wonder whether this type of material might serve to enhance the static electricity on a person’s skin. If it does, it could give rise to a whole new generation of pranksters, not to mention all the devices it could power.

Photo: Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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