Solar Powered Clothing – The Future of Wearable Technology

A team of engineers, materials scientists, and chemists at Nankai University in China have developed a new and innovative microfiber-based meta-fabric that provides full-day thermoregulation of body temperature.

The team describes in their paper (published in the journal ‘Science’) how they developed the fabrics, how they work, and how well they performed.

The researchers explain that clothing keeps people warm when it is cold and can, in some cases, help people stay cool when it is hot. Previous research efforts attempted to extend the capabilities of clothing by adding heating or cooling elements, but most of these products have so far proven to be too bulky for general use.

According to Techxplore and the study, the researchers built on a prior discovery that microfiber-based meta-fabrics are able to provide daytime radiative cooling. The researchers then tried to combine flexible solar cells with electrocaloric technology in order to create a micro-fiber-based fabric that can be used by ordinary people in day-to-day circumstances.

The new fabric is based mainly on an organic photovoltaic module combined with a bidirectional electrocaloric device. Due to both of these materials being flexible, the resulting device can be integrated into the fabric and used to make clothing. Furthermore, thanks to its bi-directionality, the clothes can then provide a heating or a cooling effect depending on the weather.

The research team reports that when tested, the clothes made with their technology were able to respond quickly to changes in ambient temperature. Further testing showed that the clothes were able to cool a person’s skin in a hot environment and heat it when it was cold out. They also found that the clothes were able to maintain skin temperature to a thermal range of 32°C to 36°C, even in environments where the temperatures varied from 12.5°C to 37.6°C.