Decoding Design

Solar ski helmet serves up power and protection

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Integrated headphones and a microphone are powered by the sun, and the user's phone and glove communicate wirelessly with the helmet.

Tech-obsessed skiers and snowboarders rejoice! You'll soon be able to use the sun to power your phone, tunes, fax machine*, coffee maker*, and whatever else you decide to schlep up on the hill with you. (*not really)

Fraunhofer IZM, a German research and development firm that specializing in power electronics and system integration, has found a way to produce monocrystalline silicon solar cells that can be mounted on a three-dimensional curved surface without degrading the cell's performance. The cells can generate up to 2 watts of power, which would be used to operate the wireless headphones and the microphone integrated into the helmet.

These will communicate via Bluetooth to the user's phone. The helmet also communicates via radio with the user's glove, which as an integrated battery, OLED display and volume and function controls. This way, the user can adjust the music or use the phone without having to remove her gloves or fuss with the helmet.

Off the hill, when not wearing the helmet, she can power up her phone directly through the solar cell.

The company is partnering with German manufacturer TEXSYS, which specializes in wearable technology for outdoor sports, to bring the helmet to the European market by the end of the year. It's expected to retail for €300 (around $400).

The helmet is one of what will likely be many applications for these curved cells, and Fraunhofer IZM spokesperson Georg Weigelt tells me the design works in a concave position, too.

Via: Energy Harvesting Journal

Images: Fraunhofer IZM

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Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure