Following the steady stream of wearable power research brings up on a fairly regular basis new developments in this field. The latest, highly interesting wearable power concept is based on the piezoelectric effect and the mechanical energy generated by walking.
But there is a unique twist in this particular power-walk research carried out by researcher Xinyu Xue, Sihong Wang, Wenxi Guo, Yan Zhang, and Zhong Lin Wang at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
The technological twist is the conversion of mechanical energy directly into chemical energy, omitting the usual step of converting mechanical energy such as wind, coal, or solar into electrical energy and use the electrical energy to store it as chemical energy in a battery.
It is essentially a self-charging battery cell what the researcher have created by replacing the polyethylene separator that normally separates the two electrodes in a battery with their PVDF film.
PVDF film is a piezoelectric material that generates a charge when pressure is applied. When this PVDF film is placed between the two electrodes in a battery, positive Li ions migrate from the cathode to the anode. The ion migration charges the battery directly without the need for the additional energy conversion step of conventional energy transfer during the battery charge process.
First experiments with a modified coin-type Li-ion battery demonstrated the potential of energy efficiency. The energy conversion cycle improved by about 20% compared with current energy conversion from mechanical to electrical to chemical.
The first small scale prototype generates only a few mV and micro Amps but tuning the system and scaling it up can lead to a power walk battery of 1.5V, not enough to let us use a shoe to make phone calls but capable to run a range of sensors in future, connected shoes.
London based wearable electronic fashion brand CuteCircuit is my favorite wearable tech company. No other brand is as long in this space and is as much dedicated to wearable tech than CuteCircuit.
It is not only the pioneering work Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz, owner of CuteCircuit, pull off in fairly regular intervals, they launched the ‘Illuminated Collection‘ bringing aesthetically beautiful women and mens wear with a magical sparkle to the consumer.
Their latest push in the wearable tech space is the tshirtOS, a wearable, sharable, programmable t-shirt.
How cool would it be to show tweets, FB status and much more, beamed from the cloud to the front of your t-shirt?
The t-tshirtOS will come with a 32×32 grid of tiny LEDs acting as screen concealed underneath the fabric of the shirt, a micro-camera, microphone, accelerometer, speakers and link the t-shirt via a smartphone to the almighty internet cloud.
Sounds like a very challenging and aggressive vision but taking to account the consistency of delivering great ideas-to-products, CuteCircuit might very well be able to get the tshirtOS off the ground.
Right now Ryan want’s to find out how much interest will be from people like you and me to consider owning a tshirtOS. If the crowed is big enough to justify the full development and fabrication we might be able to get our social outfit in the foreseeable future.
Hey Ryan – YES I want one
I was watching Star Wars over the weekend, got fascinated (again) with the laser thing and looked around if I can find a match between laser and clothing. Sure enough I hit a laser activated T-Shirt called the LazerShirt.
The LazerShirts is the invention of the LazerShirts Team who has successfully run a Kickstarter project about a year ago to bring this cool idea into reality.
The Lazer Shirts come in various styles and of course sizes but all have in common the Lazer feature: paint with an UV light (the Lazer) any form, shape or message on the shirt. Your very personal design will glow in low light clearly visible for about 20-30 minutes after which you can redo again your design.
The magic, interactive glow comes from Phosphorescent pigments in the shirts print. The pigments get energized (exited) when hit by UV (black) light and give off a soft glow until the energy is used up and the print color retains it’s neutral, relaxed status.
The process can be repeated many many times. The LazerShirts are washable, turning it inside out for a gentle washing cycle.
Much better as running around days and weeks with the same message on a T-Shirt. The LazerShirts basically allow status updates on the Shirt – cool. Maybe a LazerShirt 2.0 has a like button somewhere, activated by your friend’s laser pointer – just kidding.
Wearable electronic, electrifying the fabric from which our clothing is made from is making a big step towards reality according to researchers at the Center for Graphene Science at the University of Exeter.
The Exeter team, headed by Dr Monica Craciun and Dr Saverio Russo, developed GraphExeter a highly conductive – electrically and thermally – material 200 times stronger than steel.
Graphene, some call it the ‘miracle material’ of the 21st Century, is able to conduct electricity over a sheet that is just one (1) atom thick. At this atomic level the layer appears invisible to the human eye.
GraphExeter is made by sandwiching molecules of ferric chloride between two layers of Graphene. The ferric chloride enhances the electrical conductivity of Graphene, without affecting the material’s transparency.
This development is significant because previous attempts to create extreme thin layers of transparent conductors faced high resistance and brittleness of such sheets. The use of ferric chloride between the Graphene layers reduced to resistance to a record low of 8.8 Ohms/square while keeping the optical transmittance higher than 84% in the visible range.
According to Dr Craciun, solar panels using GraphExeter will increases the power harvesting efficiency significantly because the wider range of light to which GraphExeter responses can push the solar panel efficiency to more than 30% – compared to a meager 7% of current flexible solar panel technology.
The potential of this invention is huge, spray-on of solar power harvesting properties on clothing without changing the texture or color of the fabric, printing invisible electronic circuits on clothing, ready to connect to the cloud.
Some athletes at the Olympic Games demonstrate how technology could become a part of athletic preparation and performance enhancement.
Olympic team GB gymnast Mimi Cesar used during her game preparation a haptic feedback system, the MotivePro, a ‘Vibrating Suit’ developed at the Visualization Research Unit at Birmingham City University.
MotivePro was initially designed as sensor suit for dancers and musicians, merging the data created during the performer’s movement in space with the performance.
This capability to track precisely movement in space combined with providing haptic feedback via vibration elements on strategic places on the body allows a real-time feedback of complex, acrobatic movements performed by the gymnast.
The real-time feedback allows her to adjust fluidly, bringing the brain and body-motion into perfect sync.
Motion sensing systems with real-time feedback can be of great training assistance in many different sport disciplines where the coordination of body motion is essential.
Wearable tech designs like this or the Hot Pants I talked about yesterday, seem at first suitable only for novel applications but history tells us that once a new technology emerges, the creativity of people find quickly ways to adopt such ground breaking work for the everyday life.
Think about posture related problems which represent a rapidly growing health issue around the globe. Integrating MotivePro and similar technologies into garments for people working in risk professions, risk to insure the spine due to bad sitting habits (yes many of us are in that area) or lifting weights all day would greatly benefit.
The current design of many wearable tech functions like this might not be practical or stylish enough to adopt on a wider scale but take the recent mobile-phone evolution that started out as a brick morphing over a few years to an item of desire, carried around like a jewel.
Restarting my blogging activity after a long break with the latest wearable technology news coming from the Olympic games in London.
Adidas designed for the Olympic cyclist team GB Hot pants. No – not the type of hot pants that have been the fashion rage in the 70s.
The Adipower hot pants, actually tracksuit bottoms, help to keep warm the cyclist’s leg muscles to prevent injury. Every fitness enthusiast will well know the danger of cold muscles when heading off for a run or race.
Adipower Hot Pants are designed to keep the muscles at optimal temperature after the warm up training until the moment the cyclist hits the race track.
The heating power is provided the Fibretronic’s HEATwear™ FIR fabric, a lightweight, breathable, 100% fabric system which is integrated into the Adipower Hot Pants for targeted body warming.
We have seen the past few winter seasons outdoor apparel brands integrating textile heating in jackets, boots and gloves. Using textile heating for summer sports apparel is new to me but makes perfectly sense – especially for high performance athletes where a fraction of a second separates winners and losers.
Adidas collaborated with the British Cycling team, the Loughborough University and Fibretronic to create the wearable technology highlight of the 2012 Olympic games.
The Touch Glove created by Ally Seeley is not only a cool eTextile design concept, it does address a rare but occurring problem effecting unfortunate people who loose their tactile feel.
Feeling with the fingers is a essential part of our life. Most of the time we are not even aware how much we rely on our tactile sensing capability. We touch many things we see to aid and confirm our visual impression of an object.
Fire accidents can lead to a prolonged, temporary or even permanent loss of the tactile feel sense. Damaged nerves responsible for tactile feel is another cause for loosing this vital sense.
Ally replaces the loss of tactile feel in fingers with a smart glove, giving a visual feedback of the surfaces touched with the Touch Glove. A textile pressure sensor is integrated in the index finger which picks up the softness / hardness and structure of the surface. The differences in pressure on the sensor is translated into different light pattern emitted by the LEDs embedded at the wrist of the glove.
If you are interested in building your own Touch Glove you can either click over to Ally’s Instructables or take the opportunity and meet Ally in person at the upcoming eTextile Lounge at the Maker Faire Bay Area 2012 where Ally is hosting one the the eTextile Workshops using her Touch Glove as example how to get started with eTextile Crafting.