Weavers are increasingly experimenting with conductive threads to create cloth that glows. For example, Dr. Lucy Dunne, of the University of Minnesota College of Design, gave a keynote speech on e-textiles at this year's Convergence, and electronic textile weaver extraordinaire Lynne Bruning wove a fabulous e-textile runner shown in Handwoven’s November/December 2012 issue.
There is a downside to e-textiles though: batteries. When weaving glowing table runners, scarves, or anything else with conductive threads, one must first try to determine where to place the battery case. Well, scientists are currently working on a conductive thread that may solve this problem. A group of scientists led by chemistry professor John Badding of Penn State have developed a silicon-based optical fiber with solar-cell capabilities. (Try to say that five times fast!) The thread is thinner than a human hair and can be woven into a fabric which can then generate energy using solar power.
The fabric is lightweight and flexible, and scientists are already coming up with ideas for its use, from charging batteries on cell phones to powering biomedical devices. Personally, we can’t wait to own our own modern-yet-retro solar-powered Tron outfits.