Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have created a fabric that can harvest energy from sunshine and motion.
The hybrid power textile combines these two types of electricity generation into a single fabric. It could help pave the way for manufacturing apparel and other products that could provide their own source of energy to power smart phones, global positioning systems, or other devices.
To make the fabric, researchers used a commercial textile machine to weave together solar cells constructed from lightweight polymer fibers with fiber-based triboelectric nano-generators. According to researchers, triboelectric nano-generators combine the triboelectric effect and electrostatic induction to produce a small amount of electrical power from a mechanical motion such as rotation, sliding, or vibration.
The fabric, which is 320 micrometers thick woven together with strands of wool, could be integrated, for example, into clothing, tents, or curtains.
Fiber-based triboelectric nano-generators capture the energy created when certain materials become electrically charged after they come into moving contact with a different material. For the sunlight-harvesting part of the fabric, the team used photoanodes made in a wire shape that could be woven together with other fibers.
The backbone of the textile is made of commonly used polymer materials that are inexpensive to make and environmentally friendly, the researchers say. The electrodes are also made through a low-cost process, which makes it possible to use large-scale manufacturing.
Early tests indicate the fabric can withstand repeated and rigorous use, researches will now look into its long-term durability, further optimizing the fabric for industrial uses, including developing encapsulation to protect the electrical components from rain and moisture.