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Fabric Uses Sun and Wind to Power Devices

Hand and Watch

Fabrics that can generate electricity from physical movement have been in the works for years. Now researchers have taken the next step, developing a fabric that can simultaneously harvest energy from both sunshine and motion.

Combining two types of electricity generation into one textile paves the way for developing garments that could power devices such as smart phones or global positioning systems.

“This hybrid power textile presents a novel solution to charging devices in the field from something as simple as the wind blowing on a sunny day,” said Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Materials Science and Engineering.

To make the fabric, Wang’s team used a commercial textile machine to weave solar cells constructed from lightweight polymer fibers together with fiber-based triboelectric nanogenerators. Triboelectric nanogenerators use a combination of the triboelectric effect and electrostatic induction to generate a small amount of electrical power from mechanical motion such as rotation, sliding, or vibration.

Wang envisions that the new fabric, which is 320 micrometers thick and interwoven with strands of wool, could be integrated into tents, curtains, or garments. The research was reported in the journal Nature Energy. — Josh Brown

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