Luminescent solar concentrators that can be wearble. The future of clothing

Our hunger for energy seems insatiable, and it grows with every new electronic device that comes on the market. And because we're always on the move, our day is measured in how far we can go without recharging our cell phone or moving depending on whether we have access to a power source for our smart phones or laptops.

ropa inteligente.jpg In the future we could have clothes that produce electricity. Image designed by @emiliomoron, using public domain images 1, 2

This could change in the future, and looking for an outlet in public places for this purpose could be unnecessary, as we would have the possibility to generate electricity with our own clothes! Thanks to the development of a new polymer that can be incorporated into textile fibers, our shirts and jackets could function as solar collectors, and therefore as a mobile energy supply.

Empa scientists and Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology developed developed a material that functions as a luminescent solar concentrator, which opens up immense possibilities, especially that of satisfying our demand for energy directly where it is needed, especially with regard to everyday electronic devices. The advance was presented in volume 76 of the magazine Nano Energy.

A luminescent solar concentrator is a device that carries luminescent materials embedded in a transparent wave guide by which sunlight is absorbed over a large surface area to activate the luminescent materials, and concentrate the light re-emitted to the laterally connected photovoltaic panels. Luminescent solar concentrators offer the advantage of reducing solar energy costs by reducing the use of photovoltaic panels per device. They have been conventionally built with rigid films and a robust geometry, which has limited their implementation in the daily energy requirements.

Although flexible materials for luminescent solar concentrators have already been investigated, so far these cannot be considered wearable, as they do not have good air permeability or water resistance, nor can they be covered by textile fibers. In the work published in the magazine Nano Energy, volume 76, the research team managed to incorporate several of these luminescent materials in a polymer that provides precisely flexibility and air permeability.

This new material is based on co-nets of amphiphilic polymers with a novel structural design that allows them to be used as flexible solar concentrators that can be integrated to textile garments, without the fear of being a brittle garment or accumulating sweat inside. Like large rigid concentrators, flexible luminescent materials capture a much wider spectrum of light than is possible with conventional photovoltaic energy. In this work, amphiphilic polymer conetworks (APCN) are used as wearable LSC polymer matrixes due to their flexibility; in addition, with the help of hydrophobic and hydrophilic domains separated in nanophase from the APCN, hydrophobic (Luminogen Red, acceptor) and hydrophilic (fluorescein, donor) luminescent materials are loaded in adjacent domains separated in nanometers.

APCNs.jpg Representation of APCN containing the pairs fluorescein and Luminogen Red. Source: Image by @emiliomoron.

This type of material, used to make solar concentrators that can be worn on the body, is a great advantage in meeting our growing demand for energy to power our portable devices. And although the research is in its initial phase, it is unquestionable that it will be used as an experimental field for the future of wearable technology.

Thanks for coming by to read friends, I hope you liked the information. See you next time.

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This post has been published previously in my other blog.


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