CSU researchers and students are working to develop natural-fiber outdoor clothing with built-in solar panels. The project was recently selected to compete in a sustainability design competition this weekend in Washington D.C.
There are other solar-powered outdoor clothing products on the market. But the researchers say few products currently available are made with petroleum-based textiles and are functionally flawed with solar panels that are difficult to launder or wear. The team aims to change that by only using UV-treated natural fiber fabric like cotton or linen. They’ve found the right combination of fabric and weave, thickness, weight, dyeing and finishing of natural fabrics protect from UV rays.
To date, the team has developed prototypes of three jackets, a vest and two helmets– one ski helmet with Bluetooth capabilities and one that could be used by the military. In the second phase of design, the team is considering clothing that could be used by road construction workers. The project was funded by a $15,000 grant from the EPA.
Of course, turning these prototypes into market-ready products will be a much larger challenge. The clothing will have to be functional and stylish, effective at powering devices, comfortable to wear and easy to wash.