“Power dressing” no longer means what you think it means. Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a fabric that will not only keep you clothed but will also glean electricity from sunlight and movement—simultaneously. “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 engineering professor Zhong Lin Wang of his research, which was published Monday in the journal Nature Energy. Tents, curtains, and garments are all possible applications for the technology, Wang said. “The fabric is highly flexible, breathable, lightweight and adaptable to a range of uses,” he added.
YOU HAVE THE POWER
To create the fabric, which measures 320 micrometers thick when coupled with strands of wool, Wang and his team employed a commercial textile machine to weave together fiber-based solar cells with triboelectric nanogenerators (just a fancy term for thingamajigs that convert mechanical motion into electricity.)
Another plus: Manufacturing the material isn’t likely to be expensive. “The backbone of the textile is made of commonly-used polymer materials that are inexpensive to make and environmentally friendly,” Wang said. “The electrodes are also made through a low-cost process, which makes it possible to use large-scale manufacturing.”
“The fabric is highly flexible, breathable, light weight and adaptable to a range of uses,” Wang said.
In tests of a letter-size swatch of the fabric, which they attached to a rod and let fly from the open window of a moving car, Wang and his group said they were able to generate “significant power” even on a cloudy day.
Similarly, a 4-by-5 centimeter scrap of the material, buoyed by sunlight and movement, managed to give a 2 millifarad commercial capacitor a charge of 2 volts in one minute.
“That indicates it has a decent capability of working even in a harsh environment,” Wang said.
The next steps for the researchers is ensuring the textile’s long-term durability. They’re also looking into optimizing the fabric for industrial use, which requires shielding electrical components from rain and moisture.