Energy Generating Clothing

Sara Johns Cool, Science

Energy Generating Clothing

Are you active enough to power your devices?

Scientist San-Woo Kim has developed a durable and flexible cloth that can capture human motion to generate energy.  Sounds weird right? Even if you don’t want to wear the silvery fabric coated with specially layered nanorods and silicon-based organic material, it’s still a great step in the right direction.  Used in the right applications, you could power your cell phone while walking around your office. You would become the power source, not the wall.

During Kims tests, he stacked 4 pieces of the cloth together and applied pressure. He found that the material quickly produced energy outwards that he used to power an LCD display and a vehicle key fob. The cloth produced the same results for more than 12,000 attempts. The cause of all this? “triboelectric effect” TENG, TNG’s or static electricity for short.

This is certainly a great development for the world of wearable devices. We’re not just talking your smart watch or Bluetooth. Small lightweight devices could play life-changing roles as robotic skin or in other biomedical applications.

Even before San-Woo Kim started his development, Zhong Lin Wang Ph.D. and his team at Georgia Institute of Technology were working on it.  Currently they have incorporated TENG into shoe insoles, whistles, foot pedals, floor mats, backpacks and ocean buoys for a variety of potential applications. These gadgets harness the power of everyday motion from the minute (think vibrations, rubbing, stepping) to the global and endless (waves). These movements produce mechanical energy that has been around us all along, but scientists didn’t know how to convert it directly to usable power in a sustainable way until now.

These discoveries have attracted the interest, and funding, from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy and Samsung, just to name a few.  This research was presented at the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

Curious to see what else they’ve been up to? Check out a video of their work here.

*Image courtesy of American Chemical Society.