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Published on May 1st, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


New Solar-Powered Clothes with Natural Fabrics

May 1st, 2012 by  


Solar-powered clothing has been talked about for years, probably decades. And there are options out there, but it obviously hasn’t hit the shelves of H&M yet,… and that’s not really its best market. Where it might genuinely make sense is on clothing for campers, hikers, and such.

There are some solar sportswear options out there, but as Alyssa Danigelis of Discovery News notes, “these duds usually rely on petroleum-based materials rather than natural fibers.”

“To try and come up with an ideal design for the outdoor person that is fashionable and functional both as clothing and an energy source is a lofty goal — but attainable,” Jaymi Heimbuch of TreeHugger writes. Let’s hope so! Apparently, 45 teams are now competing to design the most functional, good-looking, green, and affordable solar clothing as part of an EPA program to advance the idea.

Colorado State University (CSU), one of the teams receiving $15,000 in the first round of this solar clothing competition, writes:

First, the clothing will use the most recent research and technology to make natural fibers such as cotton and linen as outdoor savvy as other petroleum-based textiles which are heralded by outdoor enthusiasts for warmth, UV ray protection, comfort and moisture-wicking. Second, the clothing will provide a solar source of energy for electronic devices, reducing alkaline battery use.

The team is using only UV-treated natural fiber fabric, such as cotton or linen, rather than petroleum-based textiles, which contribute to pollution. The researchers have discovered that the right selection of fabric and weave, thickness, weight, dyeing and finishing of natural fabrics provides excellent protection from UV rays. The group has developed prototypes of three jackets, a vest and two helmets –one ski helmet with Blue tooth capabilities and one for possible military use.

“This project is unique in that there are no current apparel products that combine solar power with natural fibers,” said Eulanda Sanders, a professor in the Department of Design and Merchandising who specializes in apparel design and production.

Will we see functional, attractive solar clothing with natural fabrics on the market soon? I hope so.

Read more on the Colorado State University website.

Image Credits: CSU 

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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