A self-charging textile captures both solar and mechanical energy to power wearable electronic devices — no bulky batteries needed. The top layer contains thin, flexible solar cells woven into a material that harvests energy from the sun. The bottom layer is made from similarly pliable supercapacitors that store the energy for later use, researchers report October 26 in Science Advances.
Here’s the cool part: As the person wearing the material moves, the two layers of fabric rub together and build up static electricity. The supercapacitors stockpile that energy, too. Harnessing two energy sources provides more consistent power than relying on solar cells alone, says study leader Zhong Lin Wang of Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The prototype textile — a 13-centimeter-square swatch — can power an LED or a digital watch, but the researchers hope it could someday charge more energy-intensive electronic devices such as fitness trackers or MP3 players.
A two-tiered textile harvests and stores solar energy. When a person moves, the two layers rub together, producing mechanical energy that’s also stored to power devices.