From iPod bikinis to robot journalists: 10 amazing solar-power projects

By Eoghan Macguire for CNN
updated 10:46 AM EST, Fri December 23, 2011 | Filed under: Innovations
CNN) — A bikini that can power an iPod and a backpack that charges a mobile phone are just two of the more eccentric examples of solar-powered products to be developed in recent years.Although there may be something of the novelty about these items, one expert at the cutting edge of photovoltaic research believes they offer good examples of how solar energy can be adapted for use in small-scale consumer products. 

“Most household or portable appliances operate on low-voltage DC requirements, which is exactly what solar produces,” says Douglas Halliday, a solar power expert at Durham University’s Energy Institute, in the UK.

If products such as televisions, DVD players, alarm clocks and mobile-phone chargers can be adapted to meet some of their own power demands via in-built solar panels, “the overall energy saving could be quite significant,” he says.

Halliday explains that as solar technology develops and becomes more efficient, the possibility to develop new kinds of creative solar solutions will also likely increase — including the potential to incorporate solar power into clothing.

This would work, he claims, by combining thin film solar cells with clothing materials to create garments that produce electricity when exposed to sunlight.

This in turn could lead to people powering small portable electronic devices, like iPods, mobile phones or laptops, while they are on the move, negating the need for them to be charged from the mains, he adds

Check out the galley above for some of the most eccentric, and inventive, solar concepts to be developed in recent years.