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Posted on January 22, 2009 by  & 

Merging textiles and photovoltaics

Solar technologies are being adopted globally with strong growth predicted in the sector despite the current poor state of the world economy.
Apart from traditional implementation such as roof top and industrial installations as well as solar farms, IDTechEx is observing with interest the emergence of the integration of solar technologies with the textile industry. Some examples of research on the topic are given below.


Sheila Kennedy, an expert in the integration of solar cell technology in architecture, creates designs for flexible photovoltaic materials that may change the way buildings receive and distribute energy.
These new materials, known as solar textiles, work like the photovoltaic cells in solar panels. Made of semiconductor materials, they absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity.
Kennedy uses 3-D modeling software for her solar textiles designs, generating membrane-like surfaces that can become energy-efficient cladding for roofs or walls. Solar textiles may also be draped like curtains as can be seen in the model generated in the picture below.
A 3-D rendering of "Soft House", which uses household curtains to collect solar energy and provide lighting. Source: MIT
Solar Curtains for sustainable building design. Source: MIT

Thuringian Institute of Textiles and Plastics Research (TITK)

Based on the research and development works of the "Institute for Technology of Man-Made Fibres", the applied research of the TITK has been developed to a top-modern, worldwide well-known institute for materials research.
As a technically-oriented research institute, TITK is carrying out fundamental, as well as applied research close to the industry. The institute supports small and medium-sized enterprises in their innovation works with interdisciplinary scientific knowledge, innovative ideas, knowledge of the industry and provision of modern technical infrastructure.
Strategic fields of research include among others:
  • Synthesis of polymers and additives
  • Technical textiles
  • Fibre reinforced composites
  • Polymer-nanocomposites
  • Polymer electronics & photovoltaics
  • Slot-die-coating

Heriot-Watt University-Power Textiles

The School of Textiles and Design, formerly the Scottish College of Textiles, has had a distinguished history since 1883. Since its beginning the School has specialised in the education of professionals and practitioners in the global textile and clothing industry and has established a reputation as one of the world's leading textile institutions.
Professor John Wilson and Dr Robert Mather have created Power Textiles Ltd, a spin-off from Heriot-Watt University, to develop a process for the direct integration of solar cells on textiles. The company was formed in March 2007 with SMART: SCOTLAND funding from the Scottish Government. The company is currently developing a process on a laboratory scale, in such a way that the process can be scaled up to production level. A wide variety of applications is envisaged for the product, including mounting for temporary accommodation (for refugees/emergency use/disaster areas), permanent fixtures on buildings (roofs/awnings) and military and defense applications.
IDTechEx's Photovoltaics Beyond Conventional Silicon Europe conference, being held in Dresden, Germany on 7th - 8th April 2009, will feature a session dedicated to solar textiles with presentations from leading institutes on the field such as Michigan University, TITK as well as power Textiles Ltd. For information on this conference or to register to attend, please visit

Authored By:

Principal Analyst

Posted on: January 22, 2009

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