Generate Your Own Electric Current with a Power Shirt
Scientists have designed a fabric covered with nanowires that generates electric current due to any kind of motion. Wearing a shirt made of this fabric could enable wearers to power their iPods and other small devices simply with their body movements.
The fabric works due to its so-called piezoelectric effect, which transfers mechanical movement into electrical charges. The nanowires covering the fabric are made of zinc oxide, a piezoelectric semiconducting material. When tiny "bristles" of zinc oxide rub together -- half of them coated with gold to act as electrodes -- they generate electrical current.
"The fiber-based nanogenerator would be a simple and economical way to harvest energy from physical movement," said researcher Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor of Materials Science Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "If we can combine many of these fibers in double or triple layers in clothing, we could provide a flexible, foldable and wearable power source that, for example, would allow people to generate their own electrical current while walking."
While the present current and voltage amounts are small, the researchers are working on an improved design. They estimate that a square meter of fabric could generate up to 80 milliwatts of power, enough to power small electronics devices for hikers, soldiers, and others.
Besides clothing, the fibers could also be used in curtains, tents and other applications to capture energy from the wind, sound vibrations or other mechanical energy.