Energy Harvesting Clothing No Longer Just a Dream

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Soon, our clothing could harvest enough energy from the sun and from motion to power our gadgets. A team of researchers headed by Zhong Lin Wang, a professor at Georgia Tech, has managed to weave a new type of fabric that is created out of photoanodes, i.e. solar cells made from lightweight polymer fibers, and triboelectric nanogenerators, which can generate small amounts of electricity from motion. In other words this so-called “micro-cable power textile” is a fabric which has the ability to produce electricity.

This fabric was woven together with wool strands and has a thickness of only 320 micrometers. It is also highly flexible, breathable, lightweight, and can be adapted to a variety of uses. Needless to say, a fabric such as this would revolutionize charging devices in the field.

To test the performance, they took a piece of this new fabric (about the size of a standard sheet of paper) and attached it to a rod like a flag. They then attached this to a car that was driven with the windows down, and their findings were impressive even when tested on a cloudy day. According to the team, the output of a 1.6 by 2 inch (4 cm by 5 cm) piece of the this new fabric textile can charge a 2 microfarad capacitor to 2 V in one minute just from sunlight and motion.

Furthermore, this textile is made from common polymer materials, which are cheap and environmentally friendly to produce. The process used to make the electrodes is also a low cost one, which means that large-scale manufacturing would not be much of a problem.

The results of their tests are promising, but the team is currently still working on making the fabric more durable. They are also still optimizing it for industrial purposes; such as finding ways of shielding the electrical components of the fabric from moisture.

Solar Powered Clothing

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Back to the Future II is one of those movies that continue to influence our imagination even though it was released way back in 1989. It foretold a bunch of advancements that we would have by the year 2015, some of which came very close to coming true, some not so much. The movie also inspired a nanotechnology scientist at the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center, Associate Professor Jayan Thomas, to try and create solar powered textiles. And he has now succeeded, so something like self-lacing shoes as worn by Marty McFly in the movie could well be available soon.

Thomas has successfully developed solar-powered filaments, which are able to harvest energy from the sun and store it. They can also be woven into textiles to create smart textiles, which would basically be a type of wearable solar-powered batteries. These batteries could then be used to charge our gadgets, while they’d also be able to perform various other functions.

The filaments Thomas created are constructed out of a thin copper ribbon, which has solar cells on one side. The other side is covered by an energy storing layer. Thomas and his team used a tabletop loom to weave these filaments into a square patch of cloth. The weaving process is very simple, and these filaments could easily be incorporated into a wide range of clothing, including jackets, sweaters, pants and more. This would be great for the average man, but the most obvious and advantageous application of this technology would probably be for military personnel. Currently, soldiers must wear batteries weighing about 30 pounds when walking in the desert heat. If solar-powered jackets were made part of their uniforms, this load would be lessened considerably.

Another potential use of it is in electric cars, though in truth the possibilities of how such solar-powered fabric could be used to pave the way to a more sustainable future are only limited by our imagination.

Using Rooftop Solar to Meet the Energy Code

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The Energy Rating Index compliance path could allow builders to trade insulation for solar panels

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Supply and demand are two different things. When you think of an energy code, say the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC International Energy Conservation Code.), you probably think of demand, not supply. Conserving energy, after all, means reducing demand. It’s related to supply only indirectly.

As a result, you might expect an energy conservation code to have requirements that affect only the demand side of the equation. With the 2015 IECC, however, that’s not true anymore.

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Does Cheaper Solar Mean We Can Forget Efficiency?

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The ramifications of the falling cost of photovoltaic systems

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Solar energy has sex appeal. If you want to show the world you’re doing something to reduce pollution, you put photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. (PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) panels on your roof to generate clean electricity. Even better, you drive a plug-in hybrid or an all-electric car and charge your car’s batteries with your clean solar electricity.

The good news for solar enthusiasts is the cost of installing a solar electric system on your home just keeps falling and falling. Let’s take a look at some data and then ask if it’s time to abandon energy efficiency.

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Solar Energy Plan for Low Income Homes

The White House has recently announced its intentions to make renewable solar energy a more viable option for owners or renters of low income housing. Part of a larger initiative to strengthen the state of renewable energy, this goal involves increasing the use of solar energy in federally subsidized homes by three times the amount currently used. More specifically, according to Clean Technica, the Obama Administration’s goal is to equip federally subsidized housing with 300 megawatts of clean, environmentally friendly energy.

According to a statement issued by the White House, “the executive actions and private sector commitments that we are announcing today will help continue to scale up solar for all Americans, including those who are renters, lack the startup capital to invest in solar, or do not have adequate information on how to transition to solar energy.”

Part of this endeavor, according to Clean Technica, will include dramatically increasing not only education surrounding solar energy, but also the number of job opportunities available in the solar energy industry. To do so, the Obama administration will provide financial support through the AmeriCorps program to improve solar energy infrastructure for Americans living in currently underprivileged communities.

This plan was first announced by the government’s climate issues adviser, Brian Deese, and the Democratic Representative of Baltimore, Elijah E. Cummings. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Cummings said that he routinely received calls at his congressional office from constituents who could not pay all their utility bills. He said the programs would not only help the planet, but also save money for those who could not otherwise gain access to renewable energy.”

The government’s decision has been backed by numerous outside entities. According to the New York Times, more than $500 million has been raised to support the expansion of solar energy and other forms of renewable energy in underprivileged sectors of the country. The investors for this initiative are diverse, including cities, states, and charities.

The White House intends to put its renewable energy plans into practice with brisk efficiency, aiming to meet its goal to triple the capacity of solar energy infrastructure of federally subsidized homes by the year 2020.