If you are often stuck out-and-about with low battery and no phone charger, imagine being able to generate power from your T-shirt.
Scientists say they have invented a super thin fabric that generates electricity from sunlight and movement.
It has taken Chinese and US researchers about two years to develop the fabric, which they say is a flexible and foldable power source that can be used on-the-go.
Professor Zhong Lin Wang, a materials scientist from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said his team’s invention could be used to monitor health indicators including heartbeat, body temperature and even a person’s geographical position.
“This has applications for medical purposes, infrastructure monitoring, security and many other areas,” he said.
As the fabric moves, it generates electricity.
“If you’re walking [and] your jacket is flicking back and forwards, you can harvest this kind of motion energy to charge your cell phone,” Professor Zhong said.
To power small electrical devices, the material needs sunlight or movement.
“So you can use whatever energy is available, whenever it is available,” Professor Zhong said.
He said wearing the fabric would not look out of the ordinary.
“It looks like conventional fabric, except that the fibre is a little thicker than conventional fibres, but it is fully flexible and made into cloth, so you can see a piece of fabric but it’s a power generator,” Professor Zhong said.
Easy to recharge wearable electronics
The scientists think the fabric could be on the market in about two years.
It could be especially useful for flexible electronics — wearable portable electronic devices that need a power source.
“So this community is now is fast expanding for health monitoring, medical purposes, and they have a need for powerful small electronics,” Professor Zhong said.
“We have received a number of requests from those industries and research institutions.”
The research has been published in the journal Nature Energy.