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'Power shirt' would harvest energy from physical movement
Feb '08
Professor Zhong Lin holds prototype microfiber nanogenerator
Professor Zhong Lin holds prototype microfiber nanogenerator
Nanotechnology researchers are developing the perfect complement to the power tie: a “power shirt” able to generate electricity to power small electronic devices for soldiers in the field, hikers and others whose physical motion could be harnessed and converted to electrical energy.

The February 14 issue of the journal Nature details how pairs of textile fibers covered with zinc oxide nanowires can generate electrical current using the piezoelectric effect. Combining current flow from many fiber pairs woven into a shirt or jacket could allow the wearer's body movement to power a range of portable electronic devices. The fibers could also be woven into curtains, tents or other structures to capture energy from wind motion, sound vibration or other mechanical energy.

“The fiber-based nanogenerator would be a simple and economical way to harvest energy from physical movement,” said Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “If we can combine many of these fibers in double or triple layers in clothing, we could provide a flexible, foldable and wearable power source that, for example, would allow people to generate their own electrical current while walking.”

The research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Emory-Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Center for Personalized and Predictive Oncology.

The microfiber-nanowire hybrid system builds on the nanowire nanogenerator that Wang's research team announced in the journal Science in April 2007. That system generates current from arrays of vertically-aligned zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires that flex beneath an electrode containing conductive platinum tips. The nanowire nanogenerator was designed to harness energy from environmental sources such as ultrasonic waves, mechanical vibrations or blood flow.

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