New textile-based solar cells woven into truck tarps could soon be producing the electricity needed to power cooling systems or other onboard equipment, writes Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) in a press release. In cooperation with other institutes and industry players, researchers at the institute developed pliable, textile-based solar cells rather than the glass or silicon conventionally used. Similarly, conventional building facades could be covered with photovoltaic textiles in place of concrete render. Or the blinds used to provide shade in buildings with glass facades could be used to create hundreds of square metres of additional surface for producing power, writes IKTS. The researchers have produced an initial prototype, but aim to increase efficiency to make the product commercially viable. While silicon-based solar cells are much more efficient, the new type could be used as an alternative for specific applications. The first textile-based solar cells could be ready for commercialisation in around five years, say the researchers.
Researchers say Germany’s solar power capacity will have to grow substantially for the country to one day fully cover its electricity needs with renewables. New technologies to increase efficiency, as well as new materials to diversify possible applications are key to reaching this goal, as land use increasingly presents a hurdle to renewables expansion.