Holst Center solar shirt

The Holst Centre is an independent research and development center in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. It is a hotbed of technology development, with special emphasis on wireless sensors and flexible electronics. At the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas last week, fashion designer Pauline van Dongen wore a shirt with integrated solar collectors that can generate enough power to charge a smartphone or other mobile device.

The photovoltaic cells are designed to be manufactured using low-cost roll-to-roll (R2R) fabrication on flexible substrates. They can then be “ironed” onto fabric before it is made into a garment. The modules are flexible, stretchable, and even washable. The placement of the modules becomes a part of the design.

The shirt is a technology demonstration, not a commercial product. It is capable of generating 1 W of electricity when in full sunlight, and lower amounts of power in other settings. It can recharge a phone in a few hours, and even indoors can keep the device “topped off” to extend the battery life. The shirt also has a battery pack of its own that can store excess power until it’s needed later. As we rely on more wearable Health Tech devices, energy harvesting clothing like this can help provide power without the need to plug in to recharge.