Since wireless devices first came into being, people have had trouble remembering to charge them. Earbuds and headphones are not an exception. Solar panels are now integrated into the headbands of headphones made by the Swedish company Urbanista and the German sports giant Adidas.
Exeger, another Swedish company, manufactures these compact, lightweight, flexible panels. They have been working on making those panels thin and powerful enough to be utilised in headphones for the last ten years.
According to Exeger’s CEO, Giovanni Fili, it is a matter of convenience and, more importantly, the right thing to do for environment.
Fili stated, “Charging is something that everyone despises. However, every time you refrain from charging [using main electricity], the world benefits. We are providing the tools that the next generation of young adults expects to be provided with in order to do good [for the environment].
Powerfoyle solar panels, which Exeger manufactures, have a thickness of just 1.3 mm. Their technology is based on titanium dioxide strips that have been dyed naturally. In the simplest terms possible, the dye absorbs light photons, which cause them to transitioned into electrons.
While Powerfoyle’s panels are only half as efficient as regular silicon-based solar panels of the same size in the same amount of full sunshine, titanium dioxide panels are, they are also more easier and cheaper to build while being significantly thinner.
The solar-powered headphones have a battery inside that can play music for up to 80 hours after being charged by the panels. A full hour’s worth of power can be generated by solar charging “from just 20 minutes of English or Swedish sunshine,” according to Mr. Fili.
To their credit, the panels may also generate some power using artificial light, such as interior lights. This implies that the headphones are always charging, with the exception of when the wearer is asleep at night or when it is completely dark.
In case backup power is required due to intensive usage, there is still a power port available. According to Mr. Fili, it is unlikely that smartphones and other devices won’t feature solar panels in the near future. Because the phone is frequently carried in a pocket, it isn’t exposed to light. Instead, he imagines solar panels being sewn into people’s purses and clothing, where they may be used to charge phones.
Already, the Finnish company Plano produces textiles with integrated solar panels.
Elina Ilén, a professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia’s Department of Textile and Paper Engineering, leads that company. She is a leading expert on wearable textile electronics.
In this case, the company is aiming to create washable garments with integrated solar-powered sensors. These can track the wearer’s heart rate, temperature, posture, sleep quality, and body fat percentage, among other health-related data.
“Although these solar cells produce enough energy to power wearable gadgets,” Ms Ilén said in a release, “putting a solar cell behind a textile will never have the same efficiency of harvesting energy as a solar cell in direct sunlight.”
There is still a long way to go before solar panels, whether in clothes or placed on a case, can charge gadgets like cell phones wirelessly.
Static electricity is one of the various wearable energy-producing gadgets and clothing that is being researched as a source of power generation. It appears that there are no other options besides the solar panel. However, it represents a step toward today’s to self-charging technology.