Solar Cell Fabric: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Ditching the electricity and its negative impact, everything solar is all the rage right now.

From solar lights, solar heaters to solar chimneys, solar-powered radios, and even solar vehicles, you name it, they’re available.

It’s fascinating how the solar energy that’s so readily available can become of such great use.

Well, if you’re also intrigued by the magic of solar power and want to know how it works, you’re in the right place.

A solar panel is the main tool that absorbs sunlight and helps create energy that we can use.

They require no maintenance and are very environment- friendly.

While there are a lot of contributing factors for the efficient working of a solar panel, the solar cell is the most important one. But now, the solar cells are even available in a fabric form, which allows more flexibility than ever before.

A solar cell fabric is a type of material embedded photovoltaic (PV) cells that generate electricity when exposed to the light. In other words, the fabric is used during the making of the cells. These cells, also known as Photovoltaic cells, are an integral part of the solar panel that consume solar energy and convert it into electric power. The fabric used is called solar cell fabric.

Some solar panels are of glass or other rigid materials that are durable, even in places like deserts. But, the metal and glass combo is not ideal for clothing. So, the idea of solar-powered fabrics is getting popular right now.

What’s impressive is – you can track your fitness level or keep your devices charged throughout the day. All because of the small and breathable solar panels on your jackets or t-shirts.

Also, what about your car seat, which charges your phone as you drive down the road?
Now, let’s look at some of the benefits of solar cell fabric:

Benefits of Solar Cell Fabric

As you have got some idea on the solar cell fabric, now let’s talk about some of the benefits it offers:

  1. It helps absorb solar energy.
  2. It allows the conversion of solar energy into electrical energy.
  3. It is environment-friendly.
  4. You can use solar cell fabric in various surfaces.
  5. It can be cost-effective because it can help you save electricity and thus, the money you invest in it.

Working Mechanism of Solar Cell Fabric

The working principle of solar cell fabric is very straightforward.

As the light falls on a solar cell, the electrons in the absorber layer get excited from a lower-energy or ground state.  In this stage, they are connected to specific atoms in the solid, to a higher or excited state in which they can pass through the solid.

If the junction-forming layers are absent, the free electrons are in random motion. So, in this case, there can be no Direct Current (DC). But when there are junction-forming layers, they create a built-in electric field that produces the photovoltaic effect.

In effect, the electric field yields a collective motion to the electrons that move past the electrical contact layers to an external circuit.

The photovoltaic process has some similarities to the photosynthesis process. Since solar cells don’t work in the dark, the cells have backup energy stored in many applications. The most common means of saving this electrical energy is by charging the electrochemical storage batteries. With that, you can run the solar unit for a long time, even when there is no sunlight.

Future of Solar Cell Fabric

Right now, solar cell fabrics are still in a testing phase. As per researchers, the materials can produce power by embedding the cell fabrics into items like clothing, curtains, and tents. As a result, you get solar fabric clothing and solar fabric products. You can use such items for various purposes.

But, such products with photovoltaic power aren’t in the market yet. But in the meantime, you can keep your smartphone charged up with a portable and convenient photovoltaic device.

Solar cell fabric may not be accessible yet, but affordable residential and commercial photovoltaic systems are available.

FAQs About Solar Cell Fabric

In simpler terms, the photovoltaic cell refers to the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity. This process uses the physical mechanism called the photovoltaic effect.

Photovoltaic systems are very sturdy and reliable since there are no moving parts. A photovoltaic system can last till 20 years. Most of the manufacturers have 20-year warranties on the photovoltaic modules.

If the photovoltaic system contains batteries, then they need a replacement every 5 to 10 years.

There are different types of solar cells are as follows:

Amorphous Silicon solar cell (a-Si)
Biohybrid solar cell
A dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC)
Gallium arsenide germanium solar cell (GaAs)
Hybrid solar cell
Polycrystalline solar cell (multi-Si)
Quantum dot solar cell
Solid-state solar cell
Thin-film solar cell (TFSC)
Wafer solar cell, or wafer-based solar cell crystalline
Non concentrated hetrogeneos PV cell
Luminescent solar concentrator cell (LSC)
Micromorph (tandem-cell using a-Si/μc-Si)
Monocrystalline solar cell (mono-Si)
Multi-junction solar cell (MJ)
Nanocrystal solar cell
Organic solar cell (OPV)
Perovskite solar cell
Cadmium telluride solar cell (CdTe)
Concentrated PV cell (CVP and HCVP)
Copper indium gallium selenide solar cells (CI(G)S)
Crystalline silicon solar cell (c-Si)
Float-zone silicon
Photoelectrochemical cell (PEC)
Plasmonic solar cell

The solar cell fabrics are easily mouldable. Therefore, it can be used in a wide range of blendable surfaces as well. You can also embed the solar cell fabrics in clothes and blankets as well.

Conclusion

There are still a handful of challenges ahead for solar cell clothing to become a practical reality. Right now, it is expensive to purchase solar cell-embedded clothes and other similar items. So, it’s a no-brainer that this mission is going to take a hot minute before coming into full effect.