Scientists have been working on wearable power sources for some time, though it is still far from commonplace. In “The Future of Wearable Tech in the Textile Industry”, we spoke about two designers that are exploring the possibility of using clothing to capture kinetic energy, and how this could be used to power a watch or mobile device.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology announced this week that they had developed a new fabric that can generate energy from solar and wind power. The research was reported on September 12 in the Nature Energy.
CHARGING ON THE GO
The new fabric can generate electricity from both sunlight and motion, which lets you power your smartphone or smartwatch by simply walking around. The researchers believe the fabric could be integrated into various different types of designs, including clothes, tents and curtains.
“This hybrid power textile presents a novel solution to charging devices in the field from something as simple as the wind blowing on a sunny day,” said Zhong Lin Wang, a Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering.
The fabric was created by weaving together plastic fiber solar cells and fiber-based triboelectric nanogenerators that convert the energy into external mechanical energy that can generate electricity. The triboelectric nanogenerators are the key component, ensuring any movement such as sliding, vibration or rotation will produce energy.
The 0.32-millimeter-thick fabric is made from inexpensive and environmentally-friendly materials, which means it could be mass-produced easily by a manufacturing organization.
The team of researchers conducted a number of experiments. Here, Professor Wang discusses one experiment in which a fabric the size of a sheet of office paper was attached to a rod:
“Rolling down the windows in a car and letting the flag blow in the wind, the researchers were able to generate significant power from a moving car on a cloudy day. The researchers also measured the output by a 4 by 5 centimeter piece, which charged up a 2 mF commercial capacitor to 2 volts in one minute under sunlight and movement.”
While these initial test have shown the fabric can withstand rigorous use, further testing will be carried out to establish its long-term durability. There are still barriers to overcome, including devising a way to protect the fabric’s electrical pieces from water.
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