AMES, Iowa, August 19, 2008 (ENS) - Joe Hynek has created a solar purse and a solar necktie that the wearer can use to charge a cell phone or an iPod.
The PhD student in mechanical engineering at Iowa State University created the solar tie by imbedding thin-film photovoltaic cells in the fabric. He says it works really well, but not as well as the solar handbags he has made for women.
"I have two solar purses," he told ENS in an interview, "and I'm currently testing them, to nail down final data about how fast they charge things and how durable they are."
Hynek is now in contact with potential distributors for the solar handbags, but not for the solar necktie.
He has only one solar tie, which is sitting folded on a shelf in his home office.
"It was just a concept idea. We made a jacket with that print and we had extra fabric so we made a tie out of it," he said.
"A tie is a challenging thing to charge from," Hynek said, "there's not a lot of real estate on it to place solar panels on."
The solar fashion designer says in the future he will try to make use of the newest high efficiency solar photovoltaics now being developed - if they lend themselves to his designs.
"Engineering is all about tradeoffs," Hynek said. "Higher efficiency solar panels are more rigid and fragile. Flexible solar panels are more durable and take less material to make, but they are lower efficiency."
Hyneck got the original inspiration for incorporating solar panels into clothing and accessories when he worked at a solar panel manufacturer in Ames, making solar panels that work with military applications.
"I thought consumer stuff would be a good application," he said. "Using technology, I could make an ecological statement with a solar handbag that could keep up with the electrical needs of one device at a time - a cell phone, an iPod, or a Blackberry."
When it reaches the market, the 6" x 12" x 3" solar power purse will be a "luxury item," says Hynek, "in the $300 to 400 range."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.