updated 12:35 pm EST, Fri January 22, 2010
Stanford University prototypes textile batteries
Stanford University is continuing its research into organic batteries, this time applying its technology to wearable textiles. The researchers have turned regular cotton and polyester into electronic textiles, paving the way for jeans or t-shirts that can charge cellphones or portable music players. The technology is also one of the first steps to a new category of devices with flexible screens that are worked into clothes.
Thus far, electronics devices have been patched onto existing fabric rather than engineered and embedded into the material. As in their previous experiments, Stanford scientists used what could be called ink, made up of single-walled carbon nanotubes, which are electrically conductive carbon fibers less than 1/50,000th the thickness of a human hair.
This coating allows the fibers to conduct electricity, turning them into porous conductors. With a large surface area, a large amount of energy can be stored. At the same time, the charged clothing can theoretically withstand as many as 1 million full recharge cycles. The textiles also retain flexibility and stretchability of regular cotton and polyester, and retain their electronic properties even after being laundered multiple times.
Researches will now turn their attention to replacing carbon nanotubes with graphene, due to its lower costs. They will also attempt to combine their technology with other materials to turn clothes into solar cells combined with batteries. It's not known how soon the techniques could translate to actual products, but they could impact the longevity of handheld devices in the near future. [via Wired]