Thursday, February 14, 2008

Microfiber Fabric Makes Electricity

Reuters reported yesterday on a new scientific development.

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, they reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

My daughter would like this, because sometimes her iPod loses its charge when she's nowhere near a computer to recharge it.

[The team of Zhong Lin Wang of the Georgia Institute of Technology] made the nanogenerator by first coating fibers with a polymer, and then a layer of zinc oxide. They dunked this into a warm bath of reactive solution for 12 hours. This encouraged the wires to multiply, coating the fibers.

"They automatically grow on the surface of the fiber," Wang said. "In principal, you could use any fiber that is conductive."

I don't understand how wires can multiply. It sounds too much like a sci-fi disaster movie plot, but I'll trust that they've figured out how to prevent the wires from taking over the world.

The scientists have already verified that their fabric isn't creating static electricity but useful electricity.

One major hurdle remains: zinc oxide degrades when wet. Wang's team is working on a process that would coat the fibers to protect the fabric in the laundry.

Yep. That's a major hurdle. I hope they get it solved.

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