Scientists from RIKEN and the University of Tokyo have developed a new type of ultra-thin photovoltaic device, coated on both sides with stretchable and waterproof films, which can continue to provide electricity from sunlight even after being soaked in water or being stretched and compressed. The work, published in Nature Energy, could open the way to wearable solar cells, which will provide power to devices such as health monitors incorporated into clothing.

One of the requirements of the Internet of Things—referring to a world where devices of all sorts are connected to the Internet—is the development of power sources for a host of devices, including devices that can be worn on the body. According to Takao Someya, the leader of the research group, these could include sensors that record heartbeats and body temperature, for example, providing early warning of medical problems. In the past, attempts have been made to create photovoltaics that could be incorporated into textiles, but typically they lacked at least one of the important properties—long-term stability in both air and water, energy efficiency, and robustness including resistance to deformation—that are key to successful devices.

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