At the rate of scientists developing power packs woven into your clothing, there may just be a new meaning to wearing a power suit in the near future. Developers at the University of South Carolina have come up with a way to bake chemicals into your average t-shirt to make them capable of holding electric energy so shirts can become portable power packs wherever you’re headed.
Unlike the charging shoes we saw back in May, these t-shirts cannot actually generate electricity but can instead store it before you wear them. The study, spearheaded by mechanical engineering professor Xiaodong Li and post-doctorate researcher Lihong Bao, found that by soaking shirts in a fluoride solution then baking it in an oxygen-less atmosphere with high temperature (to prevent burning), the cotton fibers in the shirt can retain electric energy. The sample t-shirt used in the experiment can be as simple as ones found in discount stores, and could pave way for “flexible energy storage” within textiles, stated Professor Li.
The process, which creates a hybrid byproduct of carbon-activated fabric, can be used as electrodes that act as capacitors to help charge everyday gadgets. The t-shirts also do not lose their flexible texture and wearability, and can be used to charge and discharge items for thousands of times without diminishing more than five percent of the original performance strength.
“By stacking these supercapacitors up, we should be able to charge portable electronic devices such as cell phones,” Li told BBC. These shirts might also even be powerful enough to charge larger gadgets such as an iPad as well, and the technology could be further developed so that electronic devices could soon to engineered to be rollable to increase portability. It is not clear, however, how strong the charges are in these shirts or how long one would take to fully charge a smartphone from the one shirt you might be wearing.
Still, by eliminating the need to carry external chargers and power packs, having the ability the charge gadgets with just the shirt on your back could prove to be extremely environmentally friendly and reduce carbon waste. “Previous methods used oil or environmentally unfriendly chemicals as starting materials,” Li said. “Those processes are complicated and produce harmful side products. Our method is a very inexpensive, green process.”
Though, we have to wonder if these t-shirts can withstand sweat and rain if tiny molecules of electricity are woven within the fabric. Sure makes us nervous just thinking about getting electrocuted by your own t-shirt.