Smart Textiles – Get a Charge out of your T-Shirt
I can still fondly remember my Sony Walkman, and I was one of the first kids on the block to have one of those suitcase phones. I also remember the astronomical bill for a lousy half hour of talk time, which was all that thing could handle. No doubt batteries have gotten much more efficient, and a heck of a lot smaller… but, can we do better?
Well, what about charging your devices with your clothes? Have you heard of Smart textiles? Changing ordinary fabrics like cotton or polyester into a sort of rechargeable battery, you may someday be able to charge your cellphone, right in the pocket of your shirt. Awesome.
Scientists everywhere are working on various types of Electronic Textiles, and at the University of South Carolina they have come up with a cheap and relatively easy way to change a cotton shirt into a repository for electricity by simply soaking it in Fluoride and baking it at high temperatures. The material maintains its flexibility after the treatment, and can be folded with no problems.
By using small sections of this treated fabric as an electrode, scientists were able to show how the flexible material acts as a capacitor. (Capacitors have the ability to store electrical charge.) Of course researchers are working on stacking these capacitors or even coating the already treated material with nanostructured ( a size between molecular and microscopic) manganese oxide in order to dramatically increase the fabrics energy storage capabilities.
The impact this technology could have on the future of our gadgets is very far-reaching. We can imagine a world with roll-up computers and t-shirts that can monitor heart rate while you run, or even cell phones that could be folded and stuffed in your pocket. Yup, the future is coming… What do you think we’ll see when we get there?