New Clothing Harnesses Energy Through Body Movement

An international team of researchers from Sichuan University, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a wearable textile that can convert body movements into usable electricity and also store that energy. It could potentially be used in a wide range of applications, such as medical monitoring and tracking athletic performance, and could be knitted into clothing for use in the next generation of wearable electronics.

The textile – called “fiber-TENG” – is a flexible, knittable, wearable structure consisting of three layers: a polylactic acid layer (a type of polyester commonly used in 3D printing), a reduced graphene oxide layer (an affordable type of graphene), and a polypyrrole layer (a polymer already in use in electronics and medicine). It uses the triboelectric effect, in which certain materials become electrically charged after coming into frictional contact with another, different material. When fiber-TENG is subjected to mechanical deformation – such as when the person wearing the textile bends or stretches – the triboelectric charges generated by the contact between the polylactic acid and reduced graphene oxide layers can be collected by the polypyrrole layer. This process generates an electrical output that can be used as a power generation unit.

When tested, the fiber-TENG textile exhibited a high energy density and lengthy stability over charge and discharge cycles, making it a promising candidate for delivering wearable energy generation and storage. The team has plans to further explore potential uses of their textile in real-world applications. This will involve optimizing the design and fabrication process of the power textile, investigating its performance under different conditions, and developing a scalable manufacturing process workable in commercial operations beyond the lab.