The time when energy – all energy – is free, clean and readily accessible is getting closer, especially with the development of a new solar fabric that can be used to power just about anything.
As noted by the Underground Reporter, the new fabric can be used for solar and kinetic power generation, and soon it could give your personal devices – watch, laptop and cellphone – all the energy they need to operate.
While other pioneering clean energy developments like piezoelectric (kinetic energy) sidewalks and solar-powered roads are emerging technologies that would also be amazing should they come to fruition, until now researchers have not managed to figure out how to power mobile devices with power not gleaned from fossil fuels or nuclear energy.
In addition to powering personal devices, this new fabric could also enhance solar-powered backpacks, many of which are bulky because the solar panels have to be created separately and then incorporated into the pack’s design.
And how much more efficient and easy to maintain would a phone case be that actually charges your cell phone while dishing around inside a purse or jostling in your pocket? Remember, the new fabric is also capable of generating energy kinetically.
The Underground Reporter noted that with contributions from energy researchers and the textiles industry, cloth material interwoven with photoanodes and triboelectric nanogenerators can better integrate power into the small mobile devices most of us depend on daily.
Led by Zhong Lin Wan, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new fabric they are calling a “micro-cable power textile.”
“[The technology] integrates photoanodes (solar cells made from lightweight polymer fibers) and triboelectric nanogenerators (which are able to generate small amounts of electricity from motion), in essence creating a fabric capable of producing electricity,” Wan explained.
He added that the new textile was woven with wool strands, is 320 micrometers in thickness, and is flexible, lightweight, breathable and can be adapted to several uses. In developing the fabric, Georgia Tech researchers used a thin sheet of fabric attached to a rod that was allowed to blow in the wind from a car window on a sunny day. The device generated “significant power” – and that was on both sunny and cloudy days.
The power output of a 4 cm x 5 cm piece of the fabric was sufficient enough to charge a 2-microfarad capacitor to 2 volts in just a single minute, from both solar and kinetic motion. It is exciting to think how much energy the material could generate in full sun, motoring down a desert road.
What’s more, the fabric is made from environmentally friendly materials that are also inexpensive. No power cords means that you’ll have the freedom to do anything you want and go anywhere at any time. And Wan says it could also be adapted for industrial use.