Sunday, January 31, 2010

Clothes as a wearable battery?

Researchers at Stanford University have developed clothing dyed with carbon nanotubes that can store electricity. The BBC reports:

Yi Cui and his team at Stanford University in the US has shown that their "ink" made of carbon nanotubes - cylinders of carbon just billionths of a metre across - can serve as a dye that can simply and cheaply turn a t-shirt into an "e-shirt".

The idea is the same as that outlined in their work with plain paper; the interwoven fibres of fabrics, like those of paper, are particularly suited to absorbing the nanotube ink, maintaining an electrical connection across the whole area of a garment.

Cloth is simply dipped into a batch of nanotube dye, and is then pressed, to thin and even out the coating.

The fabric maintains its properties even as it is stretched or folded. Even rinsing the samples in water and wringing them out does not change their electronic properties.

"Our approach is easy and low-cost while producing great performance," Professor Cui told BBC News.

"Fabrics and paper represent two technologies with a thousand-year-old history. We combined 'high-tech' - nanotechnology - with traditional 'low-tech' to produce new applications."

The next step is to integrate the approach with materials that store more energy, in order to create more useful batteries. By combining the approach with other electronic materials in the ink, the team believes even wearable solar cells are possible.

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