Fraunhofer researchers are currently working on textile-based solar cells, which can be used to complement traditional solar panels that are found on homes and buildings. Some examples of where this technology can be useful are semitrailers that produce the electricity needed to power cooling systems or other onboard equipment, truck tarps that help power the vehicle while underway, and office blinds that help to reduce the power consumption of the building.
Right now according to Dr. Lars Rebenklau, group manager for system integration and electronic packaging at Fraunhofer IKTS, the textile-based solar cells have an efficiency of between 0.1 and 0.3 percent. In a follow-up project, he and the team are seeking to push this over the five percent mark, at which point the textile-based solar cells would prove commercially viable. If everything goes according to plan the team believes the first textile-based solar cells could be ready in around five years.