Researchers are changing dramatically the way energy generation and energy storage is made available. One way of achieving this is designing and developing these features directly integrated on a flexible fibrous matrix and yarn, through the European Commission-funded project Powerweave - Development of Textiles for Electrical Energy Generation and Storage.
Powerweave has now been running over 12 months and brings together 13 European partners from 7 countries. The project will last 42 months and the total grant is 4 million euros. The consortium comprises: TWI Limited, EPFL, Centexbel, Brunel University London, CeNTI, Ohmatex, Bonar Technical Fabrics, VdSWeaving, Lindstrand Technologies, Sefar, Cetemmsa, Cyanine Technologies, PPC - Peerless Plastic Coatings.
Solar cells for electricity generation using photoelectric materials have been a reality for more than 20 years, although until recently only available in rigid, silicon based devices/panels. Recent trends have seen the introduction of the semi-rigid and polymer-based 'flexible' patch panels. Flexible batteries have also been made. Both have been 'attached' to fabrics to provide energy harvesting and storage-based garments and other textile products.
Now the Powerweave project has made initial fibre samples demonstrating photovoltaic operation in one case and energy storage in another. Work is now proceeding to construct the fibres in larger quantities and to integrate into a textile. This is a fundamentally new approach to the development of smart textiles.
With applications being considered in aerospace, agriculture and clothing, the approach will, for the first time, provide this added functionality in a true textile format, with benefits of reduced weight, an unobtrusive appearance, flexibility, conformability, easier storage and transportation than existing systems.
The development provides application and design opportunities for example in smart clothing ( biomedical diagnostics and monitoring, sensing and display), telecoms (power for mobile devices and base stations), transport and safety ( integrated power in inflatable rafts, safety clothing), disaster relief (smart energy generating tents, rescue gear) and leisure wear (sports goods incorporating sensors, telecoms and wearable portable devices).
According to the project co-ordinator, Ian Jones of TWI Ltd - 'This is a challenging advance, but I believe its time has come, following related developments in thin-film PV and energy storage. When textile as a standalone power supply is available, the applications and commercial opportunities are wide ranging.
Contact us for more information.