Sure, solar-paneled bags are occasionally practical and always geeky, but the women in our lives wouldn't dream of letting us walk around with one, let alone using one themselves. That soon may change. The Solar Handbag from Diffus, a Danish design studio, integrates 100 "solar sequins" in a pattern that ladies may actually find socially acceptable, perhaps even attractive. During the day, the bag is capable of generating 2 watts of power, enough to charge many portable gadgets. After the sun sets, however, any leftover energy is redirected to a set of optical fibers, which glow whenever you open the bag to search for mascara, ABC gum stuffed in crumbled receipts, or whatever else you've decided may never leave your side. There's no word on whether the bag will actually come to market, but if it does go to production, it may just end up being affordable, given that many handbag budgets far exceed the amount we set aside for gadgets.
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When High Tech Becomes Fashion

Luxury handbag becomes a portable power station when miniaturized solar cells and embroideries are combined

With the boom of environmental consciousness, bags with integrated solar cells to charge your mobile phone or laptop have become commonplace. The usual approach of placing flexible thin film solar modules onto messenger type bags, however, has primarily led to products in a outdoor/leisure category. Diffus Design has teamed up with e.g. Swiss embroidery specialist Forster Rohner and Alexandra institute (DK) to challenge this approach.

A handbag that charges your mobile, helps you find your keys and looks amazing!

In the daytime hours one hundred small solar power stations distributed on The Solar Handbag generate enough electricity to charge a mobile device and a powerful lithium ion battery hidden in a small compartment. At night or in dark surroundings, opening the bag activates optical fibres attached to the inside of the bag that give a diffuse glow and assist in the search for keys, purse or other objects of vital importance.

An aesthetic approach to function

The desire to create a solar energy harvesting surface that offers maximum design freedom while still being highly efficient is the driving force behind The Solar Handbag. Working around existing technologies is not an option: Most textile-based products have limited surface areas available and therefore thin film solar cells have limitations regarding efficiency and aesthetics. The technology behind The Solar Handbag is based on miniaturizing the currently most efficient photovoltaic material, monocrystalline silicon, into oversized sequins and processing them through traditional textile techniques.

The shape of the bag resembles the story between the relationship between the sun and moon – between light source and enlightened. Therefore the shape mimics an eclipse where the moon – the enlightened – interfere or interact with the sun – the light source. The surface is embroidered with an integrated combination of normal embroidery and conductive embroidery that is able to convey the energy harvested for the solar sequins to the rechargeable battery.

Promise of a powerful future

The Solar Handbag illustrates the first development step towards highly efficient, textile based solar cell surfaces. The first generation of solar elements shows an efficiency of 9% when converting solar energy into electrical energy. Overall, the solar elements distributed on The Solar Handbag are able to generate 2 Watts, more than enough energy to charge a mobile device, even at low daily exposure to sunlight. The next generation of solar elements are already promising - the new developments will double the efficiency.