A team of researchers at the University of South Carolina have managed to create a wearable t-shirt that can create an electrical charge. The cotton t-shirt acts just like a capacitor and has the ability to store electricity, that can then be transferred to a battery in a mobile device, or cell phone.
“One day our cotton T-shirts could have more functions; for example, a flexible energy storage device that could charge your cell phone or your iPad.” Said Xiaodong Li, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of South Carolina.
The team started with a regular cotton t-shirt from a discount store. They soaked it in a fluoride solution before drying it and heating it to a high temperature. Oxygen was removed during the baking process to ensure the material didn’t burn or catch fire.
On close inspection using an infrared spectroscopy, the researchers noticed that the fibers within the material had converted from cellulose to activated carbon. However, the material was still flexible enough to wear without breaking.
Once modified, the material was able to store electricity in the same way as a capacitor. Nanostructured manganese oxide was used on the fabric, which created a supercapacitor. The fabric also performed beyond expectation. It only lost about 5 percent of its performance after being charged and discharged several thousand times.
The process is environmentally friendly and inexpensive to recreate, making it ideal for an alternative energy source that could one day be used to charge our cell phones. Li went on to explain; Since cotton is a green and renewable resource, we hypothesized that simple cotton T-shirts could be a possible candidate for a carbon source.”
The device could be implemented in many devices including medical, portable electronics and radio frequency tags. The possibilities are almost endless.