Solar jacket powers up cell phones, iPods on the fly

Heavy users of mobile phones, iPods and other portable devices may want to try on a new coat lined with solar modules and a battery to charge their gadgets on the fly.

At a fashion show in Florence on Thursday, Italian fashion company Ermenegildo Zegna Holditalia SpA (Zegna) showed off Solar JKT, an outdoor jacket lined with integrated wearable electronics developed by Germany’s Interactive Wear AG and Innovative Solarprodukte GmbH (Solarc).

Zegna aims to ship the Solar JKT coat in the second quarter of 2008. Pricing information was not available.

Two solar modules in the coat’s collar convert the solar energy into electricity. The electricity is routed by conductive textile cables to a buffer battery, which can be used to charge a device directly or store the power until needed.

The silicon-based polycrystalline solar module measures 9 centimeters by 5.5 centimeters and can generate up to 1 watt of power by full sunlight.

The battery measures 70 millimeters by 60 millimeters by 13 millimeters and weighs around 100 grams. It requires four to eight hours to load and, when full, can charge a mobile phone or iPod in less than four hours. A 5-volt connection is available for USB (Universal Serial Bus) devices and a 6-volt connection for mobile phones.

Interactive Wear was founded in 2005 following a management buyout of the Wearable Technology Solutions business unit owned by German chip maker Infineon Technologies AG.

Solarc consists of a small team of engineers in Berlin who work closely with the Hahn-Meitner-Institute and the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration.

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