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Imagine a material that could make most everything around you more energy efficient. Its development is underway at UT.

Ramki Kalyanaraman

Ramki Kalyanaraman, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Gerd Duscher, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, are designing an ultra-light, high-efficiency solar fiber with the aim of creating fabric and clothing that would convert light into energy. Metal filaments within the fibers allow the energy to be sent to batteries or other devices.

The design has been entered into the 2013 “Create the Future” sustainable-technology design contest. The competition includes a vote for a most popular invention concept.

To cast a vote, visit the Create the Future Design Contest website. The competition closes September 6.

Gerd Duscher

The invention would help make individuals more energy independent and enable light-energy harvesting products such as carpets, curtains, tents and even textile-based solar farms. Such material also would benefit rescue workers and military personnel deployed in areas that are remote or affected by disaster.

The solar fiber is being patented by a Knoxville based startup, SunJoule Materials, in which Kalyanaraman and Duscher are co-founders along with others including Gajanan Bhat, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Tyler Smith, a graduate student in physics, is working under the supervision of Kalyanaraman with Abhinav Malasi, a doctoral student in chemical and biomolecular engineering, to build a scaled-up prototype device. Seed funding for this idea was obtained from the Sustainable Energy and Education Research Center at UT.

The publishers of NASA Tech Briefs magazine launched the “Create the Future” Design Contest in 2002 to help stimulate and reward engineering innovation. The annual event has attracted more than 8,000 product design ideas from engineers, entrepreneurs and students worldwide.

Read more about the project on team’s entry page.

Read more about the contest on the contest website.

C O N T A C T:

Randall Brown (865-974-0533,

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460,