Your Clothes Have the Power to . . . Recharge your Phone

By January 20, 2010

With the increasing amount of devices we use, and the increasing mobility these devices allow, recharging has become a vital part of our lives. If wearable electronics ever really catch on, our clothes will recharge our devices using our body heat or other energy sources. Scientists at Stanford have developed a new method for creating wearable electronics, making “ink” out of single-walled carbon nanotubes that are 1/50,000 the width of a human hair. This ink, which has “excellent” energy-storage capacity, is applied to cotton or polyester, creating an E-textile -- a “conductive energy textile” – which, yes, stand up to the challenge of the laundromat, retaining their form and charge through many washes.

The process makes your clothing the power source. You still have to recharge the clothing.

Wearable electronics remain something of a curiosity, but with cheaper production methods and better materials, they could be very useful, especially as clothes are, well, pretty much ubiquitous.

"Wearable electronics represent a developing new class of materials with an array of novel functionalities, such as flexibility, stretchability, and lightweight, which allow for many applications and designs previously impossible with traditional electronics technology," say the Stanford researchers.

"High-performance sportswear, wearable displays, new classes of portable power, and embedded health monitoring systems are examples of these novel applications," the researchers say.

While using your clothes as a power source has a chance to become popular, the most intriguing use of wearable electronics is in health. Clothing that could monitor the wearer’s body signals could be especially beneficial to long-term health care.

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