Power-Generating Clothes Are In Our Future

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Power-Generating Clothes Are In Our Future

Materials scientists are bringing about the latest and greatest in power generating technology, by creating clothes that have the potential to transport electricity and power small electronics.

No longer a futuristic fantasy, power-generating clothes have become a present reality thanks to materials scientist Trisha Andrew at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. By applying PEDOT-coated yarn to any type of clothing material, your favorite clothes could become conductors.

Working under the umbrella of textile electronics, materials scientists and electrical engineers hope to turn conducting textiles into advanced electronics that can convert simple body motion into electricity fit for generating power. Andrew claims that utilizing fabric to power electronics and monitor health data are gaining relevance in the health care industry as well as in the military.

The science behind the fabric is equally as fascinating as it’s purpose. As a person moves about in clothes outfitted with the power conducting electrodes, friction from any particular piece of clothing against the electrodes electrically charges the materials, and a few microwatts of power are generated.

After testing conductivity and stability of the PEDOT yarn on 14 fabrics, Andrew says, “We show them to be stable to washing, rubbing, human sweat and a lot of wear and tear.” In addition, the PEDOT layer did not affect the feel of fabric on any of the materials. Perhaps this is because the layer increased total fabric weight by less than 2%, making this technology light and powerful.

On the horizon for textile electronics are plans to use already-made garments as solar cells, meaning a casual morning run could store enough energy to power your phone for the day.

But, until these pliable, breathable electrodes make their way onto our favorite sweaters and running shirts, we will have to settle for plugging our iPhones up to the charger before we fall asleep each night.

Photo by Richard Masoner/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Caitlin Phillips is a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia.

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