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Engineering Professors Enter Solar-Fiber Design in the “Create the Future” Design Contest

Dr. Gerd Duscher
Dr. Ramki Kalyanaraman

University of Tennessee College of Engineering faculty members Dr. Ramki Kalyanaraman, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE), and Dr. Gerd Duscher, an associate professor in MSE, have collaborated on an entry for the 2013 “Create the Future” sustainable-technology design contest.

The professors’ entry, titled “Solar Textile: Ultra-Light, Low-Cost, Flexible, and High-Efficiency Solar Energy Harvesters,” is a patent-pending design for an ultra-light, high-efficiency solar fiber, with the aim of creating fabric and clothing that would convert light into energy. Metal filaments within the fibers will allow the energy to be sent to batteries or other devices.

The invention would help make individuals more energy independent, and enable light-energy harvesting products such as carpets, curtains, tents, and even textile-based solar farms. Such material would also benefit rescue workers and military personnel deployed in areas that are remote or effected by disaster.

The competition includes a vote for a most popular invention concept. Voting closes on September 6, 2013.

The solar fiber is being patented by a Knoxville based start-up, SunJoule Materials, in which Kalyanaraman and Duscher are co-founders, along with others, including Dr. Gajanan Bhat, professor in MSE.

Tyler Smith, a UT graduate student in physics, is working with Abhinav Malasi, a doctoral student in CBE, under the supervision of Kalyanaraman to build a scaled-up prototype device. Seed funding for this idea was obtained from the Sustainable Energy and Education Research Center (SEERC) at UT.

The publishers of NASA Tech Briefs magazine launched the “Create the Future Design Contest” in 2002 to help stimulate and reward engineering innovation. The annual event has attracted more than 8,000 product design ideas from engineers, entrepreneurs, and students worldwide. The contest’s principal sponsors are COMSOL and Tech Briefs Media Group.

Read more about the contest at TechBriefs.

Read the complete entry description, and cast a vote in the contest, at Solar Textile: Ultra-Light, Low-Cost, Flexible, and High-Efficiency Solar Energy Harvesters.