With the ever-increasing military demand to reduce the size and weight of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) while lengthening flight times, the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research is funding a project to integrate solar power cheaply and easily into the base materials used to build them.
Dr. Max Shtein and his team at the University of Michigan are investigating the energy harvesting potential of many different device applications, including thin film solar cells reshaped and coated onto long continuous filaments, or fibers. When such organic semi-conductor coated fibers are woven into a fabric system, the resulting textile can be used not only to form the structural make-up of the UAV, but also to generate the electricity to power it.
Shtein and his team have demonstrated small, stand-alone prototypes that strongly suggest that this type of application is possible.
Shtein, who received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, presented a paper on fiber-based organic photovoltaic devices at SPIE Optics+Photonics in 2008.