Wearable tech is making leaps beyond accessories such as smart watches and glasses and could soon be in the very textiles of our clothes.
In a recent study published in Nano Energy, researchers from the University of Fukui in Japan and Nanjing University in China have developed electrospun fibers called EF-TENGs, that can easily be integrated with normal cloth.
“With our work, we are aiming to provide a new point of view towards wearable energy harvesters and smart textiles,” says Dr Hiroaki Sakamoto, the corresponding author for the study.
A mix fibres generate static electricity
Using electrospun fibers, one of the materials is called polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and the other of a type of nylon. The layers are coated with silver nanowires. The genius of these layers is that the fabric remains soft, breathable, and comfortable but can harvest energy as the wearer moves.
“The power generation device has flexibility and breathability since all components are composed of fiber materials,” says Dr Sakamoto. “This device shows great potential in harvesting the static electricity from our clothes.”
The mechanical motion of the body while walking or running causes the layers to gain a charge. This way, the mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy, which can be used to power electronic devices, for example.
“Among the many materials considered for TENGs, electrospun fibers are a promising candidate as they are lightweight, strong, and have desirable electrical properties. Electrospinning is a technique by which solutions of polymers are drawn into fibers using electrical charge. There are ongoing efforts to add metals to electrospun fibers to improve the electrostatic potential and charge-trapping capabilities. But this has led to compromises being made between the comfort and the output performance of the material,” wrote Brighter Side News.
Smart textiles are becoming more and more a topic of discussion, says leading European tech university TU Delft. “They are not widely used, yet everybody is curious and interested in these new products.”
Currently the integration of electronics in clothing promises a variety of new applications yet they remain to be embraced by fashion designers. Smart clothes will need to find relevance outside of laboratories where they are developed by engineers focusing on the ‘smart’ aspect but less so on ‘fashion.’Article sources: Nano Energy Journal, The Bright Side News, Hackster.io, TU Delft