Though not exactly something which can be described as made with organic materials, Xiaodong Li and post-doctoral associate Lihong Bao of the University of South Carolina are exploring the potential of fabrics as power sources for low-power devices such as mobile phones.
“We wear fabric everyday. One day, our cotton t-shirts could have more functions: for example, a flexible energy device that could charge your cell phone or your iPad,” shares Li, pertaining to the work he is developing with Bao.
Li, Bao and the rest of the team have invested studies and research pertaining to the extended functional aspects of clothing items, delving into its potential as a power source for charging the batteries of mobile consumer electronics.
With one study utilizing a regular t-shirt purchased from a discount venue, the researchers had immersed the shirt in a fluoride solution, followed by drying and baking it at high temperature degrees, ensuring that oxygen wasn’t present in the baking process to prevent the fabric from burning up.
The result, as viewed through an infrared spectroscopy, leaves behind a fabric with activated carbon, yet maintains its inherent material flexibility. With activated carbon on textiles acting like double-layer capacitors or supercapacitors, the fabrics are promising as energy storage mediums, given the fact that such capacitors can accumulate and store high energy densities.
Though far from being done, Li and Bao’s research promises a lot of upsides in the utility of fabrics, making them more than just items for protection against the elements, but also items of utility which wearers will find truly handy.
All in all, what Li and Bao are looking into is developing a shirt that can be used to charge a mobile phone.
How convenient is that?