This could be the 2008 sartorial equivalent of that 1980s classic, the Piano Tie, but it is certainly a lot more useful. Researchers at Iowa State University have glued solar panels using Photovoltaic thin film, onto the symbol of male corporate oppression and hooked it up to a Nokia phone, which sits in a handy pocket at the back of the tie.
Photovoltaic thin film has about the same thickness as paper, and properties similar to camera film. The film can be scratched, punctured, or rolled to a three inch diameter without impairing function. The researchersâ€™ real challenge was to integrate it into an aesthetically pleasing garment. First, the team used a shiny cotton sateen to mimic the reflectiveness of the solar panels. Then they used digitally printed designs to create a pattern that looks, well, almost normal â€“ for a tie.
The inventors even had the decency to laser-print a matching pattern between the panels to stop it looking like a patchwork quilt. The result? Success. The tie outputs 3.6 volts in full sun, enough to keep the Nokia battery topped up. And because the phone isn’t actually running off the tie’s power, even lesser light sources will allow some trickle-charging.