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Best In Show: Solar Clothing

Last week, researchers at solar firm Konarka Technologies said they'd made a breakthrough in the move to incorporate solar power into clothing. Their finding was a new, more efficient type of photovoltaic wire that could one day be added to clothing, shop awnings and sails to generate renewable electricity. Here we take a look at the history of solar fashion so far, from bags to jackets.

Solar clothing: Konarka Power Plastic
Konarka already produces this 'power plastic', an organic photovoltaic material that converts sunlight into electricity. Now the company is working on a new type of wire that uses similar materials and could one day be incorporated into clothing for decorative and gadget-recharging purposes. Photograph: /Konarka

Solar clothing: Lapidus designed a solar-powered parka
For its 1996-97 autumn/winter haute couture collection, Lapidus designed a solar-powered parka lined with Mylar in black and white silk, complete with micro-lithium batteries and voltaic mono-crystalline solar captors. Photograph: Pierre Vauthey/Corbis

Solar clothing: A model wears a jacket with an integrated solar module in Buenos Aires
1 October 2008, Buenos Aires: A model wears a jacket with an integrated solar module from a collection by Argentine brand Indarra.dtx. The module converts sunlight into electric power that can be used to charge mobile phones, iPods, digital cameras and rechargeable batteries. Photograph: Enrique Marcarian/Reuters

Solar clothing: A solar-powered jacket
A solar-powered jacket launched in 2007 by the Italian firm Ermenegildo Zegna, featuring two small solar panels embedded in the jacket's removable Nehru-style collar. The panels are wired to a battery the size of a deck of cards in the breast pocket. With four hours' worth of sun, the battery can be used to charge appliances such as mobile phones and iPods. Photograph: Marco Vagnetti/PR

Solar clothing: solar-powered lights in ski suits
5 November 2007, Munich: Fashion designer Willy Bogner puts solar-powered lights in ski suits, employing thin-film technology developed by lighting company Osram. Photograph: /PR

Solar clothing: First solar bag powerful enough to charge a laptop
The Voltaic Generator, by New York-based Voltaic Systems, is the first solar bag powerful enough to charge a laptop. The bag has high-efficiency cells and includes a battery pack custom designed to efficiently store and convert the electricity generated. It also charge mobile phones and most other hand-held electronics. Photograph: PR

Solar clothing: A flexible solar panel into the body of each handbag
Noon Solar's stylish bags use flexible solar panels, allowing each one to charge a mobile phone or iPod. Photograph: /PR

Solar clothing: the world's first heavy-duty solar beach tote by the Juice Bag Beach Tote
US company Reware have built the world's first heavy-duty solar beach tote, enabling you to spend the day at the beach while keeping your iPod, phone, or camera totally charged. Photograph: PR

Solar clothing: Model Danielle Simmons wears a solar bikini, designed by Andrew Schneider
6 August 2007, San Diego, California: A model wears a solar bikini, designed by Andrew Schneider. The bikini uses 1" and 4" photovolotaic film strips sewn together in a series with conductive thread. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

Solar clothing: The solar powered bikini
Another view of designer Andrew Schneider's solar-powered bikini, which produces enoiugh power to charge an iPod. Photograph: Solent News/Rex Features

Solar clothing: Triumph International Photovoltaic-Powered Bra
14 May 2008, Tokyo: A model wears the "photovoltaic-powered bra" by Triumph International, which can generate enough solar power to display an electronic sign board and/or recharge the battery of a mobile phone. Photograph: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP

Solar clothing: Solar parasol by  by Spanish designer Elena Corchero
A solar parasol by Spanish designer Elena Corchero. The parasol converts the sun's energy into electricity during the daytime and uses it to light up small decorative LEDs. Photograph: /PR

This article originally appeared in The Guardian.

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Sounds kind of cool, but hard to imagine spending a few hundred dollars on a garmet to do 25cents worth of recharging a cell phone. Especially the bikini. Who wants 5 wires tangled up in their crotch? My cell phone stays charged anyway during a day at the beach. Put the solar panel on the phone itself. The tote bag might work if they can sell it at Wal-Mart for $15. These solar briefcase things are always too expensive to be realistic.
Maybe they should begin by marketing this kind of stuff to backpackers and campers where there is an actual need.
Perhaps this kind of technology will find it's first real use in prosthetic devices or those cool Exoskeleton suits being developed by the military. Could solar-coated shoes help you jump higher on a sunny day?

Posted by: Rojelio on 21 Mar 09

I'm up for anything to do with solar energy. The bags look ok but most people wear clothes to look good in. These look ridiculous

Posted by: solar energy on 28 Mar 09

Agree with the above folks. Also, how is the clothing cleaned? Does the cleaning process shorten the lifespan of the solar panels? How durable are the panels? Are they recyclable? I might go for a sun hat with solar on it -- something that doesn't get folded, mashed, etc., and is always pointed in the right direction to get some rays.

Of course since I don't have a cell or iPod, it's kind of irrelevant to me personally...

Posted by: Heather on 22 Apr 09

I have ideas for te use and developement of flexiable cells how do I develope it?

Posted by: Alonzo on 7 Apr 10

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