A new fabric that can harvest energy from sunshine and movement

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Wearable electronics now play a more important role in our daily life. However, developing a lightweight, flexible, foldable wearable device that has sustainable power sources and effective energy storage is a big challenge.

In the past, scientists already developed fabrics that can generate electricity from physical movement. Now, researchers design a new fabric that can simultaneously harvest energy from sunshine and mechanical movement. The finding is published in Nature Energy.

The study was conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology in the USA, Chongqing University in China, and National Center for Nanoscience and Technology in China.

In the study, researchers used lightweight and low-cost polymer fibres and fiber-based triboelecric nanogenerators to develop a hybrid power textile. They weaved the textile in a staggered way on an industrial weaving machine via a shuttle-flying process.

The textile is colorful, has various weaving patterns, and can be made in more than one size. Besides the beauty and robustness, this hybrid power textile can collect energy from ambient sunlight and human body movement.

When mixed with colorful wool fibres, the hybrid textile with a size of 20 cm2 can stably deliver a power of 0.5 mW with a wide range of loading resistances from 10 KΩ to 10 MΩ for a human walking under sunlight.

Moreover, the power textile can be used in tents, curtains, and other large-area applications.

Under ambient sunlight with movement of a car or wind blowing, the power textile can deliver sufficient power to charge a 2 mF commercial capacitor up to 2 V within 1 min. The power can continuously drive a smart watch and directly charge a smartphone.

Researchers suggest that the new fabric has a decent capability to work even in a harsh environment. In the next step, they will optimize the fabric for industrial uses and protect the electrical components on the textile from rain and moisture.

Citation: Chen J, et al. (2016). Micro-cable structured textile for simultaneously harvesting solar and mechanical energy. Nature Energy, published online, 1: 16138. doi: 10.1038/nenergy.2016.138.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to Chen J et al.