First Energy-Harvesting Textile with Micro-Spherical Solar Cells

December 11, 2012 by Jeff Shepard

Sphelar Power Corporation has successfully prototyped, with the Industrial Technology Center of Fukui Prefecture, an energy-harvesting textile where spherical solar cells (Sphelar® cells) are interwoven into the fabric. This result was delivered from an interdisciplinary collaboration between Sphelar Power, which uniquely developed 3-dimesional light capturing Sphelar cells, and the Industrial Technology Center of Fukui Prefecture which serves as innovative R&D hub for local textile industries.

The basic structure of the texture is composed of warp and energy generating woof: 1.2-mm Sphelar cells are aligned and connected as a thread and then it is woven as woof with supporting warp of conventional fabric. The energy generating thread and the how to weave it as part of a textile were both key developments. With such a structure, photovoltaic modules can be not only flexible, but also expandable just like a piece of cloth.

Sphelar Power will continue the development in cooperation with the Industrial Technology Center of Fukui Prefecture and local companies, and ship the samples in one year. The energy-harvesting textile technology developed here allows for a wide range of innovative designs that cannot be achieved using conventional technology, since it has the advantages of Sphelar which is less dependent on incoming light angle and enables light-through module, and the ones of textile which is light, flexible and extensible.

Unlike conventional flat solar cells, micro spherical solar cell has spherical light-receiving surface. 1-2mm in diameter, it looks like a bead. Sphelar is the micro spherical solar cell with electrodes in opposite sides. It was invented and developed by Kyosemi Corporation.

Light does not fall in a uniform manner in the natural world. The position of the sun is constantly moving. Some of the sunlight is dispersed by clouds or reflected off glass and water. "What is the best way to catch all kind of sunlight effectively?" The concept of sphere was inspired by such a question. Capturing rays from all directions, Sphelar cell can receive sunlight more effectively and constantly than conventional flat solar cells.