Friday, February 15, 2008

Another Powerful Idea for Your Clothes

Can you imagine that your shirt might be able to power the iPod in its pocket? It's a nanotech idea that is already a step past the wild idea stage.

The journal, Nature, reports that Zhong Lin Wang and colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology covered individual fibers of fabric with nanowires made of zinc oxide. These wires are only 50 nanometers in diameter — 1,800 times thinner than a human hair.

Alternate fibers are coated with gold. The alternating strands rub against each other and the resulting pressure generates a piezoelectric charge that can be captured.

Piezoelectric power is created when pressure is translated into an electric current. Other applications include capturing the power of raindrops hitting a building, or the power of many persons walking over a specialized mat- for example at a turnstile.

So far only very small pieces of fabric have been made, but the results have been very positive. The researchers estimate that one square meter of the cloth would produce enough current to power a portable music player. And although gold is currently being used, other metal fibers would work well. The high-tech fabrics would not weigh much more than typical fabrics. The biggest hurdle at the present time is that the fabrics can not hold up to being wetted. Washing your clothes, or a walk in the rain would destroy their special properties.

from Live Science, "Tech-Stiles: Clothes That Produce Power", by Brian Bergstein, Feb 14, 2008
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