Clean Power

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

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. 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.

  • Shalom,

    I was working on a Solar Clothing line for a couple years now. What’s really needed is a Minimum Viable product and the right partnership with obviously a university/company that cares to invest in the future. I went to Arizona State University and a lot of the engineers and entrepreneur community said it wasn’t practical enough. 🙁 Well, if you could share my idea with the students working on the competition, tell them the best thing to do is make a minimum viable product that can be used on many fronts, not just fashion for outdoors(businessmen, students, army…)

    My base product was a Solar bracelet/lapels/shoulder pad: really just a patch that can be water proof and removable, that can link up to other patches to increase the volt/amp to not only charge a phone but eventually charge a laptop. And Solar Sandals(For when we are walking 40 years in the desert…lol..)

    Aharon Yehoshua
    Alan Greenspan

  • Captivation

    Those pictures look so familiar to me. For those who have never designed a product, the photos capture the early iterations of almost every project. In the early stages no one is quite sure where things go. The first few builds feel awkward, inefficient, and incomplete. You’d see the same thing if you were looking at the first prototypes of a space shuttle, washing machine, or first attempts at writing a novel.
    The secret is to keep imposing multiple iterations of improvement. Each wave of evaluation and re – creation of the product acts to continually refine and polish the final result. This concept was better understood by earlier generations which is why words like recreation exist. The whole notion of recreation was that we could build a better version of ourselves by occasionally withdrawing from our day to day activities. Through recreation we improve the greatest project in our portfolio: ourselves.

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