5 Awesome Facts About the Fabric that Converts Your Movement into Electricity - Dispatch Weekly

October 31, 2016 - Reading time: 5 minutes

A new study into smart fabrics that use movement and sunlight to create electricity has been developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and published in Advances Science Magazine.

The new smart fabric stores the created electricity in embedded fibers.

#1 Wearable and Flexible Electronic: a New Trend

If developed further, the fabric could be used in the future as an alternative way to generate energy, increasing the amount of new products in the wearable Technology market.

Zhong Lin Wang, a nanotechnologist at Georgia Tech told the Los Angeles Times, “This research recently attracted a lot of attention because these days, flexible electronics, wearable electronics, have become very popular and fashionable. But each of them needs a power source.”

Previous products that convert movement into energy are: footwear, light devices and sustainable dancefloors.

Interest in wearable and flexible electronics is growing due to environmental concerns regarding climate change, global warming and over population.

#2 Research into the Wearable Fabric Took 11 Years

The process of developing wearable fabrics takes time. Wang has been working on the early-stage technology for 11 years.

The main challenge was for the fabric to not include a battery. Instead the researchers developed a triple-thread fabric that used dye-sensitized solar cells to harvest light energy.

The other threads included: fiber-shaped triboelectric nanogenerators harvesting electrostatic charges made by normal movement.

The fiber-shaped supercapacitors store the energy in electrochemical form.

#3 Sunlight Powers Most of the Solar Cells

The fiber converts small movements into energy, meaning you don’t have to move a lot to create energy.

Sunlight provides most of the power to the solar cells but if it is rainy or cloudy, smaller movements are adequate to still generate energy.

Wang said, “The objective was to harvest energy from our living environment, for example, human walking or muscle movement and fabric; the goal is to drive small electronics.”

#4 Wearable Technology: an Exciting Future Development

Wearable technology could change the fashion industry as well as help consumers charge their phones and digital devices.

The fabric created by Wang is an inexpensive material that can be replicated and used to a large scale.

Wang told ecouterre.com, “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.”

Health monitors and robotic applications could follow from the trend of wearable technology, checking heart rate and other variables.

#5 Electronics Could Heat You in Winter

Smart clothing that uses electronics embedded in the fibers could heat you in winter or keep you cool in summer said Thomas Thundat, physicist at the University of Alberta, Canada.

Other possible capabilities include: examining temperature, humidity and environmental toxins and warning you of extreme measures of pollution.

At present the fabric still needs to be improved, both to be more wearable and maintain power for longer.

Wang said, “There’s a lot of things to do: Number one is to get the fiber thinner, so more flexible.”

“Number two is to improve the durability or robustness, so they can last longer. And third is, we have to work on continuing to improve the performance. The more power, the better.”

Would you buy wearable technology and do you think it will be a popular choice for consumers?

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.