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Development of Photovoltaic Textiles based on novel fibres

Periodic Report Summary - DEPHOTEX (Development of photovoltaic textiles based on novel fibres)

DEPHOTEX is a European collaborative research project aiming at the development of flexible photovoltaic textiles to power wearable consumer goods, grid connected systems, as well as off-grid applications. The project of 4.2 million is co-funded by the European Commission (FP7-NMP) for 3 years. DEPHOTEX started last 1 November 2008 and is coordinated by CETEMMSA, a Spanish technological centre specialised in smart devices and smart materials. The consortium is composed of a multidisciplinary team of highly experienced European entities from several countries:

Fundacio Privada CETEMMSA (Spain)
Wetenschappelijk en technisch centrum van de Belgische textielindustrie (CENTEXBEL, Belgium)
Grado Zero Espace SRL (Italy)
Deutsches Textilforschungszentrum Nord-West (Germany)
Asociacion de la Industria Navarra (Spain)
Centro Ricerche Fiat S.C.p.A. (Italy)
Brno University of Technology (Czech Republic)
Centro de Nanotecnologia e Materiais Tecnicos, Funcionais e Inteligentes (Portugal)
National Renewable Energy Centre (Spain)
Bavarian Center for Applied Energy Research (Germany)
Nanocyl S.A. (Belgium)
Texteis Penedo S.A. (Portugal)
Julius-Maximilians-Universitat Wurzburg (Germany)
Greatcell Solar S.A. - Dyesol Italia S.L. (Switzerland/Italy).

Photovoltaic (PV) is a promising market. Indeed, the global market for energy harvesting devices is expected to rise strongly in the coming years, and the market share of photovoltaic is forecasted to reach more than 60 % of the global market in 10 years.

With efficiencies growing up, state of the art PV cells offer a good solution to harvest solar energy. However they are still lacking of flexibility and conformability to integrate them in common objects or cloths.

Moreover, many sun-exposed surface areas are textile-based, like garments, car interiors, home or outdoor textiles. DEPHOTEX will therefore fill the gap by developing photovoltaic textiles with properties inherent to fabrics: flexibility, weight, durability, water/dust resistance, which are properties that will only be feasible if the fabric itself turns to be photovoltaic.

The project started on November 2008 by the analysis of the specifications required for different market sectors: wearable applications, home and architecture textiles, automotive sector, other sectors like sport and leisure. These specifications include geometrical dimensions, durability, electrical properties (voltage, power,...) cost sustainability, etc. These data will drive the project outputs all along the three years to ensure adequacy of the prototypes with the identified markets.

The second technical step deals with the development of conductive textile as substrate for the PV cells. Among the materials considered, carbon nanotubes and conductive polymers are extensively studied to evaluate their potential as a substrate to build the PV cells. Other organic and inorganic materials are also subject to tests and fabric prototyping. Adequacy with final product specifications and industrial tools is the main driver.
In parallel to this activity, research on PV active materials, barrier materials and deposition techniques is carried out to pave the route for the launch of the two main work packages dedicated to the fabrication of the devices.

Indeed, two techniques will be employed to prepare prototypes for different markets:

- building from the bottom layer (textile substrate);
- building from the top layer (barrier film and top electrode).

While the first one will aim at applications where pieces of fabric can be processed in industrial tools, the other one allows to produce 'PV patches' that can be pasted on large surface area textile (ex: large stadium awnings) that cannot be processed in the factory. This technology breakdown not only duplicates the project success chances, but also allows addressing different markets and manufacturing industries (textile and printed electronic manufacturers).