Kari Sivonen is an architect and one of the partners in Valvomo Ltd., a design and architecture consultancy. The prototype has been manufactured by Clothing+, a Finnish company specializing in intelligent clothing. The project has also received support from the Arts Council of Uusimaa.

The batteries for electronic equipment are constantly becoming smaller and more efficient. At the same time, the equipment itself uses less and less energy. Yet it often happens that the battery of a mobile phone or a digital camera dies at a critical moment. No spare battery can be found, not even a charger or a plug. The problems that these situations present led Kari Sivonen to design the Photon, a portable solar panel system.

The prototype of the Photon is lightweight. It is intended for everyday situations and extreme mobile uses. It is especially designed for paddlers, but it adapts to other uses as well. The system consists of a flat waterproof dry-bag, a mobile phone case and a shoulder strap. To make sure that the inside of the dry-bag stays dry, its textile parts have been laminated together and therefore have no stitches. Solar cells have been placed in the strap to maximize their exposure to the sun. The panel is easy to take along and is always ready for use when there is light. It can be used for charging the cell phone’s battery. The strap can also be detached and used on its own on top of a canoe, a boat and a car, or it can be attached to another bag.  

Today, using solar energy to produce electricity is still relatively expensive, but it is often the only reasonable method available in the wilderness. The prototype uses flexible silicon solar cells, i.e. today’s technology. Their total energy balance may easily be negative because their manufacture requires a lot of energy and sterile production facilities.  Solar cells of the future, based on organic technology, imitate photosynthesis, even though they produce electricity instead of oxygen. These future cells will be easier and cheaper to manufacture than those currently available. These cells can be integrated on a wide range of structures, products and clothing since carbon based cells can be printed on different surfaces, even with a simple bubble jet printer, and even in transparent format. In a couple of years, when organic solar cell technology reaches the state of commercial use, the Photon concept can be developed further.

Summary in Finnish