One movie buff scientist from the University of Central Florida’s NanoScience Technology Center has turned to the 80s cult classic Back to the Future II to inspire a new wearable technology. Marty McFly’s Nike shoes that tie themselves in the movies spurred fan Associate Professor Jayan Thomas to develop a fabric that could harvest and store solar energy. Thomas developed filaments that can be easily woven into fabric, which could be transformed into clothing that doubles as rechargeable solar batteries.

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Thomas imagines a future where wearable technology can change lives. With solar harvesters and cells woven right into clothing, that could mean your sweater could store energy to charge your smart phone, a jacket could act as a spare set of batteries, or a bag could power a slew of personal devices. Each piece of energy-packed clothing could easily be recharged, simply by going outside under the sun.

The research shows that filaments are more versatile than solar cells, allowing the developer to interweave them into clothing easily and comfortably. Thomas has a long history of solar cell research, all of which has lead him to this incredible next step of creating “smart clothing.”

In addition to helping the average person power their devices, Thomas sees this solar-storing clothing could help soldiers, who often carry 30 pounds of batteries in the field. His incredible research was revealed earlier this month in Nature Communications.

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+ University of Central Florida