Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fiber Nanogenerators power up our future clothing...

On a fairly regular basis researchers publish new findings around power generating textiles, a topic highly interesting for the wearable electronic community. This time engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, created energy generating nanofibers that could one day be woven into textiles. The nano-sized generators work on the ‘piezoelectric’ principle, converting kinetic energy through stretches and twists into electricity. Sounds fabulous as the textiles of our clothing stretches and twists all day when worn. ‘This technology could eventually lead to wearable smart clothes that can power hand-held electronics through ordinary body movements,’ said Liwei Lin, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering and head of the international research team that developed the fiber nanogenerators. The nanofibers are made from organic polyvinylidene fluoride, or PVDF, they are flexible and relatively easy and cheap to manufacture. Oh yeah, in almost all of these announcements, this new technology is easy and cheaply to manufacture. We heard this from flexible solar cells as well some years back but up until today, the cheap factor has not materialized. It’s always exiting to see advances in developments and research but all this has to be taken with a (very) long term view as such break-through discoveries, although they seems simple to make, can take a long time to become robust enough to produce in quantities and then to become affordable to be actually used in everyday objects like clothing. Let’s put the Fiber Nanogenerators on our watch-list but move on with technologies and materials we have today and use them smartly to create smart clothes now.

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