Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a fabric capable of collecting energy from both sunlight and movement, with the aim of converting it into a source of electrical power.
The combination of two types of electricity generation in a single textile paves the way for the development of garments that could provide their own source of energy to power devices such as smartphones or global positioning systems.
"This hybrid energy textile presents a novel solution to outdoor charging devices from something as simple as the wind blowing on a sunny day," said Zhong Lin Wang, professor of the regents at the School. of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech. The research has been published in Nature Energy.
To make the fabric, Wang's team used conventional textile machinery to weave together solar cells constructed from lightweight polymer fibers with fiber-based triboelectric nanogenerators.
Nano-triboelectric generators use a combination of the triboelectric effect and electrostatic induction to generate a small amount of electrical energy from mechanical motion such as rotation, sliding, or vibration.
Wang envisions that the new fabric, 320 microns thick and woven with woolen yarns, could be integrated into tents, curtains or clothing. "The fabric is very flexible, breathable, lightweight, and adaptable to a variety of uses," said Wang.
Nanogenerators based on triboelectric fiber capture the energy created when some materials become electrically charged when they come into contact with a different material. In terms of harvesting energy from sunlight, the team used photo anodes made in the form of wire that could be interwoven with other fibers.
"The backbone of the tissue is made of commonly used polymeric materials that are cheap to make and are environmentally friendly," said Wang. "The electrodes are also produced with a low-cost method, which enables large-scale manufacturing. . "
In one of their experiments, Wang's team used a cloth the size of a sheet of office paper and tied it to a rod like a small colored flag. Placed on the outside of a moving car, the researchers were able to generate significant power on a cloudy day. The researchers measured the power output on a 5-by-4-centimeter piece, which charged a commercial 2mF capacitor to 2 volts in one minute under the sun and movement. "That indicates that he has a remarkable ability to work, even in a harsh environment," Wang said.
Although early tests indicate that the fabric can withstand repeated and rigorous use, research is looking for long-term durability. Next steps also include optimizing the fabric for industrial uses, including developing suitable encapsulation to protect electrical components from rain and moisture.