Wearable Power: Nanotechnology could power up your Shirt

Microfiber_prototype.JPGHow convenient would it be if your gadgets like cell phone and MP3 player would get their charge from your clothing. Never forget to charge them over night just drop them in the pocket head off to the office, school or wherever and they will be re-charged.

A team of U.S. scientists think we are within reach of power clothing. They have developed a microfiber fabric that generates its own electricity, making enough current to recharge a cell phone or ensure that a small MP3 music player never runs out of power.

The February 14 issue of the journal Nature details how pairs of textile fibers covered with zinc oxide nanowires can generate electrical current using the piezoelectric effect. Combining current flow from many fiber pairs woven into a shirt or jacket could allow the wearer’s body movement to power a range of portable electronic devices. The fibers could also be woven into curtains, tents or other structures to capture energy from wind motion, sound vibration or other mechanical energy.

“The fiber-based nanogenerator would be a simple and economical way to harvest energy from physical movement,” said Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “If we can combine many of these fibers in double or triple layers in clothing, we could provide a flexible, foldable and wearable power source that, for example, would allow people to generate their own electrical current while walking.”

Microfiber-prototype_1.JPG

The nanogenerators developed by Wang’s research group take advantage of the unique coupled piezoelectric and semiconducting properties of zinc oxide nanostructures, which produce small electrical charges when they are flexed.

So far, the researchers have measured current of about four nanoamperes and output voltage of about four millivolts from a nanogenerator that included two fibers that were each one centimeter long. Not much yet but with a more improved design, Wang estimates that a square meter of fabric made from the special fibers could theoretically generate as much as 80 milliwatts of power, enough for cell phones and iPod nano – no bun indented.

As a next step, the researchers want to combine multiple fiber pairs to increase the current and voltage levels. They also plan to improve conductance of their fibers.

However, one significant challenge lies head for the power shirt – washing it. Zinc oxide is sensitive to moisture, so in real shirts or jackets, the nanowires would have to be protected from the effects of the washing machine, Wang noted.

That might be a show stopper for the moment but I am sure this can be solved by this team as well. This concept is just too cool to let it go now.

That is the second announcement in just a few days regarding Wearable Power: The Microfiber Fabric and the Electricity – generating knee brace.

[source: Georgia Tech via Science News]

2 Comments


  1. Hi there Wow what a fantastic article about Fashion Institute Of Technology! Your keen insight into Fashion Institute Of Technology is informative and creative. I look forward to reading other articles you have. Thanks.

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