Scientists have discovered a radical new way to create electricity from fabric. Soon, your pants could be charging your smartphone while you wear them.
An international team of scientists from The University of Texas at Dallas and Hanyang University in South Korea has developed a high-tech yarn that produces electricity when twisted or stretched.
The yarn has an amazing name: Twistron
The yarn is constructed from carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are hollow cylinders of carbon 10,000 times thinner than the width of a human hair. These nanotubes are woven together to make high-strength, lightweight yarn. The yarn is twisted and coiled to provide stretch: something like an over-twisted rubber band.
The twisted fiber is then coated with an electrolyte solution, which can be as simple as salt water. The electrolyte fills the yarn with charge. When the yarn is twisted or stretched, the changing shape of the fiber moves the carbon nanotubes around, generating the energy.
To test Twistron’s energy producing potential, researchers sewed the yarn into a shirt and observed that the movement of normal breathing was enough to produce a charge.