Imagine never having to worry about connecting your cell phone to a charger thanks to wearable organic solar cells embroidered onto wearable fabric. Such a breakthrough may one day become mainstream technology thanks to the efforts of scientists from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yildiz Technical University (YTU) in Turkey.
Faculty member and professor Serap Gunes and her team are working to turn solar cells into disposable bioplastics. So far, they have managed to ignite light-emitting diode (LED) laboratory lamps and charge a battery with the energy flows from these cells, according to a May 8 report by Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency. .
Gunes recently won the 2022 Academy Award of Turkey’s Energizing Women Awards organized by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources thanks to the solar energy project she is developing with seven colleagues from the YTU Organic Electronics Laboratory.
Gunes told the news agency that the team set out to explore wearable technology after considering whether a small solar panel woven onto a shirt could generate power while a person performed his daily routines.
“The problem with wearable technologies is that the thin films you prepare will spread all over the surface of the fabric, you can’t spread them in a controlled way. We thought that as a Velcro fabric, we we should stick it on, take it off, not have trouble with the wash,” she said.
“This work evolved in other directions, like: let’s wear it like a raincoat or wear it on us like an umbrella. It got a lot of attention, we are currently continuing in that direction,” she said. added.
Bioplastic materials used in wearable technology dissolve in water and are immediately soluble in nature, according to Gunes.
“You’ve generated your electricity, your job is done, wash it off, mix it with nature. It’s like a disposable solar cell. We’re heading towards that point right now,” Gunes also said.
The solar cell used in the technology is made of a semiconductor material sandwiched between two metal electrodes. “We can easily produce these semiconductor materials using organic materials, i.e. polymer-based materials, under laboratory conditions. [that are made] easier and cheaper,” she added.