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Flexible, organic solar cells for power generating textiles SOLTEX

Research project PA/09 (Research action PA)

Persons :

  •   MEYVIS Tom - The Textile Research Centre (CENTEX)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/2002-31/12/2005
  •   HEREMANS Paul - Interuniversitair Micro-Elektronica Centrum (IMEC)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/2002-31/12/2005
  • Prof. dr.  VANDERZANDE Dirk - Universiteit Hasselt (UHASSELT)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/2002-31/12/2005
  •   GEERTS Yves Henri - Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/2002-31/12/2005
  • Prof. dr.  LAZZARONI Roberto - Université de Mons (UMONS)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/1/2002-31/12/2005

Description :

It is the objective of the SOLTEX project to develop a flexible organic (plastic) solar cell that can be integrated with textile surfaces by lamination technology.
The trend of miniaturization of electronics has reached the stage that portable and wearable electronics is becoming a reality. Batteries are used today as power sources. These batteries make up a considerable part of the weight and volume of these systems. They pose an environmental hazard when disposed of. The introduction of a truly wearable power source to complement and recharge batteries would allow to use smaller batteries and in some cases replace them altogether. It would have additional applications for power generation in remote areas, rescue and humanitarian operations, etc… This objective fits within the developments of the information society and facilitates the deployment of telecommunication services. It also provides the groundwork for standardization. Solar cells are autonomous power-generating devices that can be used in a wide variety of conditions and environments. To be useful for portable and wearable applications, they must be thin, lightweight, flexible and low-cost. These features have very recently become possible thanks to the revolutions brought by the introduction of organic (also called plastic) electronics.
Textiles are omnipresent surfaces with significant area that could be used as substrate for portable and wearable power generation. Functionalized textiles are increasingly being introduced in the medical, sports and leisure and other market segments, and they form a welcome diversification for the high-tech Western textile industry. The development of power-generating textile perfectly fits in this strategy. Belgium has a strong background in solar energy production, organic electronics and high-tech textile industry (9000 jobs in 130 companies, 200 Meuro turnover). This is reflected by the number of strong university groups and research centers active in these fields.

We have in this consortium clustered the research groups with international reputation in these fields into a multi-disciplinary team of excellence. The large industrial user commission testifies the genuine interest by the industrial players in the different fields involved (film, chemistry, textile, electronics, photovoltaics). The work in this project is divided in two main actions. On the one hand, we start from proven organic solar cell technology and adapt this in order to obtain a solar-cell sheet that is suitable for lamination with textiles. On the other hand, we selectively replace certain parts of the solar cell in order to improve its performance in the demanded – mostly outdoor – environment. The performance figures that have to be improved are the outdoor lifetime and efficiency.

The two main tasks that are foreseen for this purpose are:

(1) the design, synthesis and introduction of new organic electronic materials (discotic liquid crystal materials, fluorene-based and thiophene-based copolymers) for improved carrier conduction, absorption of sunlight and stability;
(2) the development of technology for encapsulation of flexible solar cells with polymer barrier layers.

The results of this project include:

- Stimulation and profilation of Belgian multidisciplinary research in the field of electronics for the information society and in the field of functionalized textiles
- Generation of methods, practices and measurements as groundwork for standards in power generation for portable and wearable electronics.
- Protection of intellectual property generated in the project in the area of materials for organic electronics and in the field of new textile technology A flexible organic solar cell integrated on textile, as a technology demonstrator and look-out for the user committee of Belgian industry interested in the field and for the broader industrial and scientific community.

Documentation :

Flexible, organic solar cells for power generating textiles SOLTEX : final report    Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2007 (SP1829)
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