Solar Panels Meet Natural Fibers For Outdoor Gear

Next time you spend the day swishing down the ski slopes listening to your iPod, you might not have to worry about the battery dying. That is, if the students from Colorado State University apparel design school have anything to say about it. A group of students and researchers  from the school are working to create a line of natural-fiber outdoor clothing that can charge all sorts of electronics using built-in solar panels.

We’ve told you about a number of different designers who are currently incorporating solar panels into their clothing designs. But what’s unique about this project is the pairing of solar panels with natural fibers. The apparel makers are working specifically with cotton and linens to make them as warm, moisture-wicking and comfortable as petroleum-based outdoor wear currently on the market.

image via CSU College of Applied Human Sciences

The project is being funded by a $15,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with the aim of eliminating pollution on two fronts. The first is to find a substitute for the aforementioned petroleum-based outdoor gear currently for sale. The second is to lessen the need for alkaline batteries.

“We believe this will fill a need in the market for the many environmentally-conscious outdoor enthusiasts,” Ajoy Sarkar, associate professors in the Department of Design and Merchandising, said in a statement.  “The overall goal is to develop natural, solar-powering clothing items with functionality, durability and comfort while also being aesthetically stylish.

So far, the group has already come up with a line of prototypes including three jackets, a vest and two helmets — one for skiing and one for possible military use. The ski helmet also comes equipped with Bluetooth technology. The team was to present its project and prototypes at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C., in late April.

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.

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      The ski helmet also comes equipped with Bluetooth technology.