nanowires.jpg

It would
seem the gadget-enthusiast of the future will look much like the borg.
As we’ve reported on Absolute Gadget, knee-braces have been developed
that will charge up you iPod as you pop to the shops, now "smart
clothes" aim to do pretty much the same thing by harnessing the
power generated by movements of the body.

According to an article in science mag Nature, a gang of US boffins have
invented fibres that turn kinetic energy into electrical
energy.

Speaking
to BBC News, Professor Zhong Lin Wang of the Georgia Institute of
Technology and one of the inventors said: "Our goal is to make
self-powered nanotechnology. Airflows, vibrations – all these are mechanical energy that we can harvest to power devices."

Now
here’s the science part – textile fibers covered with zinc oxide
nanowires generate electricity in response to applied mechanical stress
(i.e. movement). This phenomenon is known as "the piezoelectric
effect," the resulting current flow from
many fiber pairs woven into a shirt or jacket could allow the wearer’s
body movement to power many electronic devices. You could even put
these fibres in curtains, tents or other structures to
capture energy from wind motion, sound vibration or other mechanical
energy.

nanowires.jpg


"The two fibers scrub together just like two bottle brushes with their
bristles touching, and the piezoelectric-semiconductor process converts
the mechanical motion into electrical energy," said Wang. "Many of these devices could be
put together to produce higher power output."

Unfortunately,
zinc oxide doesn’t do too well in the washing machine, so it could be a
while before you throw away your chargers just yet.

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