Fabrics capable of producing power from physical movements have been in use from quite sometime. Moving a few steps ahead, a research team from Georgia Institute of Technology developed a fabric that is capable of harvesting power from motion as well as sunshine. The combination of these two kinds of power generation methods in one single fabric opens up path for new kind of garments that can power our pocket devices like smartwatches, smartphones or global positioning systems on their own.
According to Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor from Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering, “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.” To design this fabric Wang’s team employed a commercial textile machine and weaved lightweight polymer fiber-based solar cells with triboelectric nanogenerators constructed from fibers.
These generators utilize a smart combination of electrostatic induction and triboelectric effect in generation of small amount of electricity from small manual movements like sliding, vibration, or rotation. Wang imagines the inculcation of this new kind of fabric that is some 320 micrometers thick and has been woven together with wool strands into curtains, tents, and garments. In his words, “The fabric is highly flexible, breathable, lightweight, and adaptable to a range of uses.”
The fiber-based triboelectric generators of this fabric are able to create energy as and when specific stuff gets charged electrically after it comes in contact with variety of other materials. As far as the sunlight harvesting aspect of this fabric is concerned, the team infused photoanodes (created in a wire-shaped pattern) to fit in the fibers easily during weaving. Wang further adds, “The backbone of the textile is made of commonly-used polymer materials that are inexpensive to make and environmentally friendly. The electrodes are also made through a low cost process which makes it possible to use large scale manufacturing.”
They used this fabric in an experiment attaching it to a rod in form of a colorful flag. When they allowed it to blow in the window by letting down the car’s window significant amount of power was generated from it on a cloudy day. They were also able to measure the output generated by a 5 cm piece, it charged a 2mF capacitor by two volts within 60 seconds. It means the fabric has enough ability to work in harsh conditions.
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