Solar energy has been one of the most coveted forms of power source for many years now. And with constant research and steady increase in funding, we have made remarkable strides in utilizing it. Today, at least 10% of the world’s energy requirements are met with solar energy. But solar energy is only effective on a large scale, it can only be harnessed if solar panels spanning for acres focus on the bright yellow sphere for hours together. At least that has been the case till now, but what if you can shrink that technology and make it more compact? What if you can wear it carry it on everywhere you go? What if the panels were embedded on your handbag that automatically charges your smartphone as you walk? Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Well, it definitely doesn’t to the Dutch fashion designer Pauline Van Dongen. He has created his breakthrough innovation – the wearable solar tech outfit that makes all the above weird imaginations possible.
How can solar panels be shrunk?
Solar panels are nothing but photo resistors that generate electricity when focused upon light. The size of the panels is directly proportional to the material used and the energy requirements. So working with the top brass of the HAN University of Applied Sciences and dedicating a few years to it development, the Dutch designer has finally created the right material which can be stitched to a cloth and can produce electricity as well. And the cells in the dress generate enough electricity to charge up you smartphone, tablets, or any other electronic device that you may have.
The fusion of fashion and science
The invention of the dress is just a mere starting step in the long path to conversion to energy efficient dressing. With the ozone layer slowly depleting and radiation levels going off the charts, it is time that we start embracing the sun and its radiation, rather than hide away and curse it. So in the near future, taking a stroll during the midday will no longer be something to be despised, but will rather be necessary. Imagine, for being able to charge your phone or your hair blower, all you have to do get to the street and walk, that’s all that will ever be required. So ironically, people will no longer suit down in summers but rather suit up.
What to expect in the future?
Currently the dress created by Van Dongen consists of 72 solar panels lined along the flaps of the dress and can be covered or opened as per requirement. There have always also been exhibits of solar panel lined handbags and purses, which can serve as power hot spots. But in the future, a number of designers have expressed interest to include the solar panels in the very fabric and make the dress much more effective in converting solar energy to electricity. But as now, we can expect that this technology is here to stay.
Time for transformation
Pauline believes that the transformation will be slow, and even his design will probably take 2 years before it can hit the stores for commercial retailing. Also there is the obvious problem of washing the solar panels, which is currently impossible. But designers believe that the technology will catch up soon with the needs of the fashion industry, and soon solar powered clothes that are flexible, light and washable will soon be a reality. If this concept does become true and prevalent, we will never have to worry about running out of power again, or buying sunscreen for that matter.