Researchers at the University of Central Florida might have stumbled across a way to make your clothes wearable batteries. Imagine just putting your phone in the coat of your jacket to charge it as opposed to messy wires and frantically seeking electric power outlets.
How is this possible? Nanotechnology scientist and professor Jayan Thomas and his Ph.D student Zenan Yu are using a single lightwight copper wire to replace electrical cables.
Funnily enough, no one had ever thought of it before, says Thomas.
Supercharged, everywhere you go
While copper wire is the starting point, eventually the researchers foresee fabric being engineered with nanotech instead.
Being able to store and conduct energy on a single wire is a big deal - this could be the end of big, bulky batteries. This means that miniaturisation could go even further, saving space that was previously taken up by a battery for most devices. Or that space could instead house other components. The potential for this could go as far as making electric vehicles lighter and less costly.
At first Thomas and his team placed a sheath over a single copper wire, a sheath made of nanowhiskers grown on the outer surface. The whiskers were then treated with a special alloy to create and electrode. For powerful energy storage, two electrodes are needed. How was the second electrode created? A thin plastic sheet was wrapped around the whiskers , wrapped around with a metal sheet after generating nanowhiskers.
Why is this genius? Thanks to the insulation, the inner copper wire is still able to channel energy but the layers around the wire can store power.
Thus a supercapacitor was created on the outside of the copper wire, supercapacitors being stores of energy often used to start vehicles.
Someday special clothing fibres could hold enough power, coupled with flexible solar cells for instance, and you could put your music in your hoodie pocket and never worry about it running out of juice. A future without needing to carry spare batteries or power banks looks good to us!