Department of Design

The results of the Sun-powered Textiles project will be presented as showcase jackets

One of the goals of the Sun-powered Textiles project was to showcase the results in a tangible way. A showcase jacket would combine knowledge from all the project participants, demonstrating the aim and the results of the project. That also helps the audience to imagine what else could be possible with an autonomous energy supply for textile wearables.
Two jackets made of optimized textiles for covering solar cells
Prototype jackets with invisibly integrated solar cells. Photo: Anne Kinnunen

One of the goals listed in our project plan was to showcase the results of the Sun-powered Textiles project in a tangible way. The showcase would combine knowledge from all the project participants: Foxa’s expertise in the workwear fabrics, Lindström’s skills in workwear, and Haltian’s expertise in IoT and sensor technology as well as the Aalto team’s know-how in photovoltaics, textile design and textile electronics.

After discussing the objectives of the showcase in several workshops held during the project, we decided that it would be a jacket. A showcase jacket would demonstrate the aim and the results of the project to the shareholders and the customers well and help them imagine what else could be possible with the autonomous energy supply for textile wearables.  As the model of the jacket, we chose one from the Lindström’s professional wear collection. Every participant chose their own fabric type for their own showcase jacket. This we thought would be a good way to present that the solar cell cover fabrics may vary according to the application, and to demonstrate that the solar cell textile product would be manufacturable at the industrial scale.

Fabrics for Foxa’s and Lindström’s showcase jackets will be provided by Foxa and they are commonly used in professional wear. Haltian and Aalto, on their side, will use special solar cover fabrics designed in the project. Lindström will sew the jackets, and Aalto team integrates the solar cells, the sensors chosen by Haltian, and the inter-connecting textile electronics in them.

Fabrics, solar cells and other components for developing textile integrated solar cells
Photo: Bettina Blomstedt

Then, which research results will the showcase jackets portray? The study done within the Sun-powered Textiles bases on practical need to have reliable, energy-autonomous power-source for textile integration that meet the needs for textile use and care, design and manufacture. During the Sun-power textiles project, we have taken many different perspectives to the subject. Our research and development have involved:

  • Technical feasibility of a different solar cell technologies in different lighting conditions and with different cover fabrics. The tests have been done both in the laboratory and in the field.
  • The durability of commercially available solar cells in textile manufacturing, use and care. This information we gained for example by washing tests.
  • The optimal characteristics of the solar cell cover fabrics. We gained the information for textile design by measuring optical properties of 300 commercially available fabrics used for professional and functional wear.
  • Industrially scalable textile integrated solar cell manufacturing process. We encapsulated the electronics including the solar cells between thermoelastic plastic film by lamination, which is a well-established process in the textile industry.

Collaboration resulted in numerous findings

In the Sun-powered Textiles project, our multidisciplinary collaboration has resulted in numerous findings. The jackets will highlight at least the following research results: 

  1. Energy harvesting is possible with textile covered solar cell.
  2. A solar cell can be covered with a variety of different types of fabrics, depending on the applications. The suitability of the textiles can be evaluated and compared with optical and electrical measurements.
  3. Commercially available solar cells can be durable enough to tolerate the mechanical and thermal stress caused by textile integration, use and care.
  4. The wearer doesn’t need to look like a robot. Covering the solar cells with textiles will add freedom to design the solar cell integrated textiles: the aesthetics of the solar cells no longer dominate the aesthetics of the textile surface. 
  5. Solar cell cover textile can be designed for best overall characteristics. Three showcase jackets with special fabrics made in Aalto will demonstrate this. The design brief for these fabrics was to simultaneously let the ambient light pass through the textile and to conceal the solar cell behind the textile.
  6. It is possible to integrate the solar cells and other electronic components into textiles with an industrially scalable process.
  7. A temperature/humidity sensor embedded in the jacket give one example of how the light energy can be used.
  8. Finally, we hope that a tangible outcome, in the firm of a showcase jackets, show that a collaboration between companies and university researchers can create groundbreaking results that benefit both the research and the business.

The jackets made of different fabrics shows the variety of design possibilities for readily applicable solar cell textiles. We hope they lead their audience to ponder: What new product or service concepts could we envision based on energy-autonomous solar-powered wearable or textile electronics? 

Some of the showcase jackets, among other results of the project, will be presented to the public in Aalto University’s Designs for a Cooler Planet exhibition in Väre building, 8th – 29th September, 2021. The exhibition is part of Helsinki Design Week.

 

The Sun-powered Textiles team: Elina Ilén, Janne Halme, Farid Elsehrawy, Elina Palovuori, Bettina Blomstedt, Pinja Helasuo, Jaakko Eskola, Zuzana Zmatekova, Linda Wederhorn, Maarit Salolainen

Contact

Elina Ilen

Project specialist
 Elina Palovuori

Elina Palovuori

Designer in Residence

Farid Elsehrawy

Postdoctoral Researcher
A close-up image of a woven textile structure to be used to cover the solar cell.

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Sun-powered Textiles - Textile solar cell modules for energy harvesting in wearables

The research results of the Sun-powered Textiles project will be presented

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