by Yerika Reyes
We have had the ability to produce fabrics that produce electricity from physical movement for a few years, but now researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology are developing a fabric that can gather solar energy and motion energy concurrently. The combination of these two generators of electricity into a textile will allow for developing clothes that can provide their own source of energy to power smartphones and global positioning systems (GPS). This fabric will alleviate the issue of charging devices while conducting research in the field because it can harness energy from the wind and sun.
This development was spearheaded by Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering. This new material would be 320 micrometers thick woven together with strands of wool, and could be integrated into tents, curtains or wearable garments. To construct the fabric, Wang’s team used a commercial textile machines to interlace together solar cells constructed from lightweight polymer fibers with fiber-based triboelectric nanogenerators. Triboelectric nanogenerators use a combination of the triboelectric effect and electrostatic induction to generate small amount of electrical power from mechanical motion such as rotation, sliding or vibration. Fiber-based triboelectric nanogenerators capture the energy created when certain materials become electrically charged after they come into moving contact with a different material. For the sunlight-harvesting part of the fabric, Wang’s team used photoanodes made in a wire-shaped fashion that could be woven together with other fibers.
The fabric has proven that it can withstand repeated and rigorous use in early test, but needs to be tested for long-term durability. Additionally, there will further optimizing the fabric for industrial uses, including developing proper encapsulation to protect the electrical components from rain and moisture. This new fabric will prove to be invaluable both for those conducting research in a field and for those in need of charging their personal devices on the go.