U.S. scientists have developed a microfiber fabric that generates its own electricity, making enough current to recharge a cell phone or ensure that a small MP3 music player never runs out of power.
If made into a shirt, the fabric could harness power from its wearer simply walking around or even from a slight breeze.
The nanogenerator takes advantage of the semiconductive properties of zinc oxide nanowires — tiny wires 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair — embedded into the fabric. The wires are formed into pairs of microscopic brush-like structures, shaped like a baby-bottle brush.
One of the fibers in each pair is coated with gold and serves as an electrode. As the bristles brush together through a person’s body movement, the wires convert the mechanical motion into electricity.
“When a nanowire bends it has an electric effect,” Wang said in a telephone interview. “What the fabric does is it translates the mechanical movement of your body into electricity.”