European scientists have developed light, flexible solar panels that could be sewn on fabrics and placed on surfaces to charge objects ranging from cell phones and DVD players to batteries.
Developed by scientists working on a European Union research project called H-Alpha Solar (H-AS), the panels could be on the market in three years.
"The new solar panels will be cheap too, because they can be mass-produced in rolls that can be cut as required and wrapped around clothes," New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.
A pliable panel sewn on the back of a jacket and costing less than 10 pounds ($19.35) could charge a mobile phone during a summer stroll, according to the magazine.
The panels are constructed in a similar manner to conventional solar panels but are only slightly thicker than photographic film.
"This technology will be a lot easier to handle than the old glass solar panels," Gerrit Kroesen, of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands who led the development team, told the magazine.
The panels are thin and bendy but unlike the best solar cells that work at efficiencies above 20 percent, the pliable panels are only about 7 percent efficient.
But the scientists believe the trade-off is worth it because the flexible panels could be more useful than conventional ones.
"The Swedish and Dutch-owned company Akzo-Nobel, a partner in the H-AS research, already has a pilot plant producing rolls of silicon cells 40 centimeters wide," according to the magazine.
If the company decides to continue the project a full-scale manufacturing plant could produce panels at a cost of about 1 euro ($1.34) per watt, it added.