SCIENTISTS have made a breakthrough in their bid to produce “smart clothing” that could power cell phones with the sun’s rays, according to a new report. The American Chemical Society says that batteries in smart phones and other portable electronics often die at inopportune times. Although carrying a spare battery is one solution, as an alternative, researchers have tried to create fibres to incorporate in clothing that would power these devices.
However, many of these fibres can’t withstand clothing manufacturing, especially weaving and cutting. To collect solar power, Wenjie Mai, Xing Fan and colleagues created two different types of fibres. One contained titanium or a manganese-coated polymer along with zinc oxide, a dye and an electrolyte. These fibres were then interlaced with copper-coated polymer wires to create the solar cell section of the textile.
To store power, the researchers developed a second type of fibre. This one was made of titanium, titanium nitride, a thin carbon shell to prevent oxidation and an electrolyte. These fibres were woven with cotton yarn. When combined, the new materials formed a flexible textile that the team could cut and tailor into a “smart garment” that was fully charged by sunlight. The researchers say the clothing could potentially power small electronics including tablets and phones.