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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Smart clothes to power portable electronic devices

Engineers have created energy-scavenging nanofibres that could one day be woven into clothing and textiles.

The nanofibres can convert energy from mechanical stresses into electricity, and could one day be used to create clothing that can power small electronics, says a new study, conducted by University of California, Berkeley (UCB) researchers.

"This technology could eventually lead to wearable 'smart clothes' that can power hand-held electronics through ordinary body movements," said Liwei Lin, UCB professor of mechanical engineering, who headed the team that developed fibre nanogenerators. Because the nanofibers are made from organic polyvinylidene fluoride, or PVDF, they are flexible and relatively easy and cheap to manufacture.

Although they are still working out the exact calculations, the researchers noted that more vigorous movements, such as the kind one would create while dancing the electric boogaloo, should theoretically generate more power.

"And because the nanofibers are so small, we could weave them right into clothes with no perceptible change in comfort for the user," said Lin, according to an UCB release. Fibre nanogenerators are described in this month's issue of Nano Letters, a journal published by the American Chemical Society.

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