Dutch fashion designer Pauline van Dongen has created a dress and a jacket with hidden solar cells that can be revealed and used to charge a mobile phone while you wear them.
Pauline van Dongen collaborated with Christiaan Holland from the HAN University of Applied Sciences and solar energy expert Gert Jan Jongerden on the Wearable Solar project, which aims to show how photovoltaic technology could be seamlessly integrated into comfortable and fashionable clothing.
“Wearable Solar is about integrating solar cells into fashion so by augmenting a garment with solar cells, the body can be an extra source of energy,” Van Dongen told Dezeen at the Wearable Futures event in London. “It’s really about the true integration of technology and fashion which can transcend the realm of gadgets.”
The dress features 72 flexible cells attached to panels on the front of garment that can be folded outwards to capture sunlight, while 48 rigid crystal solar panels are incorporated into leather flaps on the jacket’s shoulders and waist so they can be revealed when the sun shines and hidden when not in use.
A standard charging plug connects the solar panels directly to a mobile device, and Van Dongen claimed that a garment exposed to direct sunlight for one hour could store enough energy to charge a typical smartphone to 50 percent capacity.
By experimenting with flexible photovoltaic cells, Van Dongen said the comfort and weight of these garments could be improved, adding that other hardware such as batteries also needs to be developed before wearable technology will become part of everyday life.
“Wearability is very important to my work because I am a fashion designer,” explained Van Dongen. “We’re dealing here with the human body and it’s not just a static body, it’s dealing with movement and expressions, a sensory surface so it’s very important to stress the wearability.”
The project is being presented at the Wearable Futures event in London and the project team are currently seeking investment to translate it into a commercially viable enterprise.
“We’re not very far away from people actually wearing these garments that I design,” said Van Dongen. “I think it’s important to see which technologies are really ready to be implemented, how people would deal with them, how people would feel in those clothes, what it could mean to them.”
“And of course looking at the cost of these technologies. If you’re integrating 80 solar cells then of course you’re adding to the cost and you have to look at how much people are willing to pay for it.”