A team of US researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have demonstrated a material that generates electricity as it moves around. This nanowire fabric can be used in t-shirts and other clothes in the future to serve as a power-plant for our gadgets.
The fabric is created by coating kevlar strands with zinc oxide nanowires, protecting the bushy wires with a polymer, and adding gold to other fibers to act as a conductor. The piezoelectric power-generating action comes when the nanowires bend as two fibers rub together, creating electricity which flows along the gold fibers.
“Our estimates show we can have up to 80 milliwatts per square meter of this fabric. This is enough to power a little iPod or charge a cell phone battery,” said Professor Zhong Lin Wang, who led the team of researchers.
One major problem remains: zinc oxide degrades when wet, meaning that the material would essentially stop working when it starts raining or it gets washed. If you like wearing the same shirt day after day, then perhaps this material is just for you. The rest of us, however, will have to wait until it’s perfected to work under normal conditions.