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Samsonite charging ahead with solar luggage

The company's new line of bags will include hand luggage with thin-film solar cells for charging portables.

Samsonite messenger bag with solar panel from Ascent Solar for charging mobile tech gear.

Luggage-maker Samsonite is releasing a new line of bags this summer seemingly aimed at on-the-go green techies.

The bags will incorporate solar panels from Ascent Solar, the same company that provides flexible thin-film photovoltaic modules for Bye Aerspaces' solar-powered surveillance drone, the Silent Sentinel.

The light-weight CIGS (copper indium gallium diselenide) modules to be used in the Samsonite products will produce enough electricity to recharge small mobile devices like cell phones, GPS navigators, and media players, according to Ascent Solar.

While this is the first major luggage brand to begin offering solar products in earnest, it isn't the first. In October 2009, Neuber started selling Energy Sun messengers bags with flexible solar panels from Konarka for about $175 each. And at the 2009 Hong Kong Electronics Fair, Mascotte unveiled solar backpacks powered by G24i solar cells, as well as solar-powered eBook covers and camera bags.

One of the main things holding back small incorporable solar has been the cost. But with CIGS coming along further in terms of both efficiency and production cost compared to silicon solar cells, integrating flexible thin-film solar cells finally looks commercially viable. As a result, consumers can likely expect to see more products like a solar-charging messenger bag.

Samsonite did not immediately respond to request for pricing and precise availability for its new hand luggage.