STTR Phase I: Photovoltaic Fabric

Project: Research project

Project Details


This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).

This Small Business Technology Transfer Phase I project will prototype a novel photovoltaic (PV) material based on nanotechnology: photovoltaic fabric. The PV fabric will be woven using threads that comprise of an array of p-type silicon nanowires grown directly on the periphery of thin metallic thread. The nanowires are covered with a continuous n-type silicon film forming a multitude of high surface area diode junction structures about the periphery of the thread. Then, the n-type layer is coated with a transparent conductor. A porous insulating layer isolates the n-type and p-type electrodes. This innovative technology will make it possible to construct flexible photovoltaic textiles that are light-weight and portable. The Phase I program will focus on making functional PV threads that demonstrate diode behavior and a photo-response. In parallel, a surrogate material will be used to initiate the weaving and electrical interconnect process that will be required to produce a PV textile. The full project goal is to develop a novel textile based platform to harvest clean, affordable, point-of-use solar power. The final research objective is to produce functional swatches of PV fabric that demonstrate efficiencies of 30% with a specific power greater than 300 W/kg.

The worldwide PV market is between $20 and $25 billion. The market is growing at an annual rate of between 25% and 30%. It is expected to exceed $70 billion worldwide in 2012. The photovoltaic fabric material technology is novel and innovative, and if successfully engineered, could prove to be an extremely disruptive technology. Solar power is an underused natural resource. Increased awareness of the need for renewable, clean sources of energy are currently driving the expansion of solar electrical power generation into the broader energy markets. Portable PV materials enabled by nanotechnology would have a multitude of applications: from the emergent field of 'Smart Textiles' to military uniforms and shelters to portable consumer electronics, the impact of a textile capable of generating electricity from the sun that could be incorporated into existing products and materials in a flexible, fabric platform could be a tremendously valuable technology. Illuminex Corporation, the Pennsylvania State University, and Philadelphia University are collaborating on this project. At least two undergraduate and one graduate student will have paid jobs performing cutting edge nanotechnology research. This technology will compete with the traditional solar power market and open new emergent markets for portable solar power applications.

Effective start/end date7/1/096/30/10


  • National Science Foundation: $150,000.00


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