The researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems in Dresden have succeeded in applying solar cells directly to fabrics by means of various coating processes. Instead of glass or silicon, textiles are used as the substrate. A glass fiber fabric was chosen due to the fact that, among other things, it can withstand comparatively high temperatures and is cheap to make. In a truck tarpaulin, the cells could generate electricity which the driver can use throughout the journey and during rest stops. But turning roller blinds or awnings into electricity generating surfaces is also conceivable, as is covering entire building facades in solar cell material instead of rendering them. The researchers say, however, that the cells’ efficiency is currently only around 0.1 to 0.3%. Only above a good 5% would production be cost-effective. Work is now being carried out on this aspect. The Institute is anticipating market readiness in five years’ time.
The German startup Theftex is also preoccupied with truck tarpaulins, albeit in a different way. It offers an alarm system that can be retrofitted to them. If a thief attempts to cut the tarpaulin, an alarm signal is triggered by the underlying network of wires, which is sent directly to the shipping company.