Researchers at Georgia Tech (see references below) have come up with a way to effectively capture some of the energy that is created when clothing shifts or moves around when worn by people. The team, led by Zhong Lin Wang, came up with a new type of generator that is able to capture the tiny little bit of energy that is released when a certain material is bent. That material is actually a small sandwich comprised of very small wires and bendable material. When the material bends, so do the wires, which are actually called piezowires because they create piezoelectricity from the action of being bent. The electricity that is created is then routed to a central point where it can be used to power a small device.
Currently, the material is a half inch square and produces about three volts of electricity, about enough to light up the display on a calculator. Wang and his team are confidant though that this new technology could be expanded enough so that the amount of electricity produced could be enough to power an iPod for example, or maybe more importantly a pacemaker or other life monitoring devices.
For years, scientists and researchers have been looking for a way to capture some of the energy that is released by the human body. People give off a lot of heat for example, heat that could be converted into electricity and used for other purposes. People also move around a lot, even when sitting around. They move their fingers, or their arms or legs, and they move around a lot when walking or running. Scientists have wondered for years if there wasn’t a way to capture some of this wasted energy and then to put it to some useful purpose.
In some cases, they have been successful; we now have wrist watches for example, powered by nothing more than the movements of our arms.
Clothes on the other hand, that are able to generate electricity, have been on the drawing table for years; the holdup has been in trying to find the right kind of material that when bent, produces just the right amount of electricity, but would still be wearable as clothes. It seems, with this work going on at Georgia Tech, that we are now on the doorstep of actually finding ourselves one day soon wearing shirts or pants that are either entirely made out of a material that produces electricity, or has patches or areas of our garments that get the most action, such as where our arms join our trunks.
And when that day comes, we will no longer have to worry about our iPod suddenly going dead, or our hearts stopping.