Wearable Solar Panels Developed By Australian Researchers
James Bullen
at 00:00 AM Sep 15 2011
ANU PhD student Azul Osorio Mayon and Major General John Caligari DSC, AM
Stuart Hay

New developments in solar technology could see our soldiers walking around with energy-converting cells on their uniforms in the near future.

Researchers at the Australian National University have developed wearable solar panels which are thin and flexible. This means they can be easily worn on the clothing and helmets of soldiers, adding very little weight, but removing the need for soldiers to carry kilograms of heavy batteries.

Instead, equipment like their radio, torches and communications devices could be charged with solar.

After use, the panels can also be rolled up and stored, saving space in a soldier's pack in addition to the reduction in weight.

Development Manager for the project, Dr Igor Skyrabin, says the innovation will help soldiers.

“The development of these wearable solar cells will now allow soldiers to generate power in the field and reduce the need for batteries for their electronic devices. They will also establish a power supply that keeps electronic devices operational throughout the duration of missions,” he said.

The solar panels are so thin because they employ SLIVER cell technology, also developed by the Australian National University. This technology involves thin wafers of silicon acting as solar cells and dramatically increasing the number of cells in a particular area. It also reduces the amount of silicon needed for each cell, taking the cost of solar down.

The project’s Chief Investigator, Professor Andrew Blakers, says SLIVER technology was key in creating the wearable solar panels.

“SLIVER cells have enabled the construction of efficient, rugged, flexible and light weight portable modules that convert light directly into electricity under a wide range of environmental conditions,” he said.

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