Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology developed a new fabric that gathers power from both the sun and the wind. Scientists have combined two types of electricity generation into one textile. According to scientists, such fabric types could provide energy to power devices such as smartphones or global positioning systems.
Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor, said, “This hybrid power textile presents a novel solution to charging devices in the field from something as simple as the wind blowing on a sunny day.”
Discovery of this new fabric:
Scientists used a commercial textile machine to sew solar cells made from lightweight polymer fibers with fiber-based triboelectric nanogenerators.
Triboelectric nanogenerators use a combination of the triboelectric effect and electrostatic induction. Thus, it generates a small amount of electrical power from mechanical motion like rotation, sliding or vibration.
This new fabric is 320 micrometers thick and woven together with strands of wool. It is flexible, breathable, lightweight, and adaptable for various uses. It also could be combined into tents, curtains, or wearable garments.
Wang said, “Fiber-based triboelectric nanogenerators capture the energy created when certain materials become electrically charged after they come into moving contact with a different material. We used photoanodes made in a wire-shape fashion for the sunlight-harvesting part of the fabric.”
The backbone of this new fabric is made from polymer materials that are cheap and eco-friendly. Electrodes are made through a process that is used in large-scale manufacturing.
Scientists attached fabric to a rod during an experiment, just like the small colorful flag. Scientists were then able to produce essential power from moving the car. This is done by rolling down the windows in the car and letting the flag blow in the wind. This outcome can charge a 2 mF commercial capacitor to 2 volts under sunlight and movement in one minute. This indicates that it has the unique capability of working in a harsh environment.
The previous test shows that the fabric can withstand repeated and rigorous use. Now, scientists are looking for its durability. The next steps also include further optimizing the fabric for industrial uses. For example, developing proper encapsulation protects electrical components from rain and moisture.
- Jun Chen, Yi Huang, Nannan Zhang, Haiyang Zou, Ruiyuan Liu, Changyuan Tao, Xing Fan, Zhong Lin Wang. Micro-cable structured textile for simultaneously harvesting solar and mechanical energy. Nature Energy, 2016; 1: 16138 DOI: 10.1038/nenergy.2016.138