This Incredible Fabric Generates Electricity From Sunlight And Movement

Researchers developed a textile capable of producing electricity from sunlight and from friction, including the wind.


Credit: Wang et al

Every day, unique and eco-friendly innovations are unveiled. However, a textile designed by engineers with the Georgia Institute of Technology, Chongqing University, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences is likely one you missed hearing about. The fabric is newsworthy because it is capable of producing electricity from sunlight and fiction – including the wind. It could be a total game-changer, yet no one has really heard about it.

According to MotherBoard, the material is both breathable and robust and allows for enough motion to make it a good candidate for wearable electronics. In fact, an image below demonstrates a few of its uses, including powering wearable electronics and directly charging a cellphone.

Credit: Wang et al

Credit: Wang et al

The textile consists of solid photovoltaic elements woven together with copper electrodes. The material acts as triboelectric nanogenerator, meaning it is capable of converting certain frictional forces into electric charge, “a la static electricity.”

Zhong Lin Wang from Georgia Tech explains:

“Here, we present a foldable and sustainable power source by fabricating an all-solid hybrid power textile with economically viable materials and scalable fabrication technologies.  Based on lightweight and low-cost polymer fibres, the reported hybrid power textile introduces a new module fabrication strategy by weaving it in a staggered way on an industrial weaving machine via a shuttle-flying process.”

If a human were to wear a 4 cm by 5 cm section of the material and walk in sunlight, an average output of .5 mW would be generated. Taking into account the friction created by movement (like handshaking), one person could generate up to 2 volts per minute.

Credit: Wang et al

Credit: Wang et al

When introducing the invention, Wang and his colleagues wrote:

“It is worth noting that the hybrid power textile is not limited to wearable applications. It can also act as a piece of flag, harvesting energy from sunlight and ambient wind blowing, and the delivered power is also capable of charging personal electronics as well as driving electrochemical reactions for self-powered water splitting. In addition, the hybrid power textile was also demonstrated to generate power from weak sunlight and wind from a moving car in a city location on a cloudy day, which also indicates its decent capability of working even in a harsh environment.”

Reportedly, the textile is ready for integration into industrial textile production. It might be sooner than you think that the material is utilized in clothing or flown on a flagpole.

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