A GROUP of Chinese and American scientists recently developed a fabric that can power wearable devices by harvesting energy from both sunlight and body movements. It can also be made on a standard industrial weaving machine.
The fabric is based on low-cost, lightweight polymer fibres coated with metals and semiconductors that allow the material to harvest energy. These fibres are then woven together along with wool on high throughput commercial weaving equipment to create a textile just 0.32mm thick.
In the journal Nature Energy, the researchers described how they used a layer-by-layer process similar to those employed in the semiconductor industry. Using this method, they coated polymer fibres with various materials to create cable-like solar cells that generate electricity from sunlight and also so-called triboelectric nanogenerators.
The nanogenerators rely on the triboelectric effect, by which certain materials become electrically charged when rubbed against another type of material. When the materials are in contact, electrons flow from one to the other, but when the materials are separated, the one receiving electrons will hold a charge.
If these two materials are then connected by a circuit, a small current will flow to equalise the charges. By continuously repeating the process, an alternating electrical current can be produced to generate power.
The material could be used to create larger energy-generating structures, like curtains or tents. The fabrication process should also allow the energy generating materials to be combined with other fibre based functional devices, like sensors.
Next, the researchers plan to focus on improving the efficiency, durability and power management of the textile while optimising the weaving and encapsulation processes to enable industrial-scale production.
Our editors are EXCITED upon hearing this as we can soon ditch away our bulky power-bank. On a last note to all inventors, do share your UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION of your invention/ idea in one line in the comment box below.
More Tech-related posts will be up next week, stay tuned 🙂
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