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Goodbye, Chargers! Scientists Create Fabric that Could Power Gadgets Through Sun and Movement

Sep 16, 2016 04:17 AM EDT
Charging mobile phones
Clothes that doubles as a power source? A new type of fabric that could harvest energy makes this possible in the foreseeable future.
(Photo : Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Clothes that doubles as a power source? A new type of fabric that could harvest energy makes this possible in the foreseeable future. Best of all, scientists made sure this new renewable energy resource is completely eco-friendly; it produces power through solar and motion energy.

The study, published in Nature, was undertaken by a team of researchers from Georgia Institute Technology. A report from the Georgia Tech News Center revealed that the scientists simply used a commercial textile machine to create the fabric. They wove together solar cells made from lightweight polymer fibers with fiber-based triboelectric nanogenerators, which is able to generate some electricity through movement.

Thus, the team effectively combined two energy sources: sunlight and motion.

"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," Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering, said.

The professor explained that he and his colleagues are hoping this material can eventually be used in tents, curtains and even clothes saying, "The fabric is highly flexible, breathable, light weight and adaptable to a range of uses."

Manufacturing this "hybrid power textile" is also inexpensive and relatively simple.

"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."

There's potential in this innovation, but the success of the creation of this new hybrid power textile is only the first step. The scientists have already tested their product's durability. Still, they want to see how it is going to fare with long-term use.

Other plans also include tweaking and optimizing the fabric for industrial use - not just fashion. The scientists are looking into developing proper encapsulation so that the electrical properties will not be affected with moisture and rain.

Read More:
 Beat the Heat! Scientists Create New Plastic Fabric to Keep You Cool All Day
 Commonly Used Cheap Cloth Mask Not Very Effective Against Air Pollution
 Move Over, Sewing! Scientists Discover Self-Healing Fabric Using Special Liquid

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