Design company SMIT (Sustainable Minded Interactive Technology), from Brooklyn, are doing their part in banishing the myth that all nerds are perpetual, ghost-faced basement-dwellers. They had their eyes set on a summer full of outdoorsy geeky fun and they created Tensile Solar, a shade which is amazing in more ways than I can count, though I will try.
- It uses solar energy to generate power: Those colored strips strewn all over the fabric, as seen on the picture, are in fact CIGS photovoltaic cells. CIGS is a semiconductor material combining Copper, Indium, Gallium and Selenide. The versatile characteristics of this compound make it very adaptable to varying conditions of light and shade; plus, the production of CIGS panels requires low temperatures and therefore a lot less electricity than the fabrication of more traditional ones, such as those made of silicon. Environmentally sound all around.
- It comes in four different designs: Pole mount, saddle, tent and a fourth one meant for larger architectural structures. Each design in itself can be arranged in several manners, making it fit for almost as many purposes as you can think of. It might be set up as an awesome umbrella on the beach or next to a swimming-pool, as a canopy for gardens and parking lots or a superb party tent.
- It has high tolerance to wear and tear and it’s recyclable: A shade that allows multi-configuration -as pointed out in  above- is necessarily put under a lot of strain and should therefore have elevated endurance. Tensile Solar does. The breathable, pliable fabric responds well to abuse and even when it becomes too ragged, that doesn’t render it worthless because it can be fully recycled.
- It’s modular: If one of the solar cells stops working, it can be replaced without affecting the entire system.
- It’s lightweight.
- And last but not least, it looks cool: This one’s debatable perhaps; personally I really dig the pop-artsy feel of it.
Tensile Solar isn’t up for grabs yet but when it does hit the market, I’d hazard a guess that its cost might put a bit of a damper on its many advantages. Only a bit though, I can’t think of anything that would totally detract from how neat this idea is.
Ahead lie more geeky items that make good use of solar technology, check out KPV: A Solar Powered Vehicle That Fits In Your Suitcase, Solar Power Stations In Disguise: MIT’s Soft Rockers and Solar Powered Pants Will Charge Your Mobile.