What happens when you are deep in the woods and your iPhone dies? Well, until recently the simple answer to that question was; you are without an iPhone. That is about to change. Colorado State University apparel design researchers and students are working to develop comfortable outdoor clothing with fabric solar panels that can charge cellphones, MP3 players, tablets and GPS units while also preventing sunburns. 

The project is funded by a $15,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and aims to combat pollution on two fronts.

First, the material. It uses the latest research and technology to make natural fibers such as cotton and linen as durable as petroleum-based textiles, which outdoor enthusiasts love for their warmth, ultraviolet-ray protection, comfort and moisture-wicking qualities.

Second, it’s green energy. The clothing will provide a solar source of energy for electronic devices, cutting alkaline-battery use.

The research team has crafted prototypes of three jackets, a vest and two helmets, one ski helmet, with Bluetooth capabilities and one for potential military use.The ultimate goal is to develop natural solar-powering clothing items that that are functional, durable, comfortable, and stylish too.

The team includes undergraduate apparel design students Logan Garey and Anna Rieder, merchandising student Jared Blumentritt and engineering student Erick Guack. They will present their project and prototypes at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington D.C. this Saturday through Monday. 45 teams were selected from 150 team applications from across the country to compete in the EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet student competition. If the CSU students win, they’ll receive additional funding to market their idea.