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A cotton T-shirt may one day charge your cell phone

Dan Graziano
July 4th, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Two engineers at the University of South Carolina conducted research that showed a modified store-bought T-shirt can act like a supercapacitor and store an electrical charge. “We wear fabric every day,” said Xiaodong Li, a professor of mechanical engineering at the school. “One day our cotton T-shirts could have more functions; for example, a flexible energy storage device that could charge your cell phone or your iPad.” Li and his associates used a store-bought T-shirt, which was then soaked in a fluoride solution and baked at a high temperature in an oxygen-free oven. Once removed, the resulting fibers were converted from cellulose to activated carbon capable of storage an electrical charge.

“We will soon see roll-up cell phones and laptop computers on the market,” Li said, according to Innovation News Daily. “But a flexible energy storage device is needed to make this possible.” The engineer notes that the activated carbon textile acts like a supercapacitor, because they can have “particularly high energy storage densities.”

The duo coated the shirt’s fibers with a nanometer layer of manganese oxide, which greatly enhanced the material’s electricity-storing ability. “This created a stable, high-performing supercapacitor,” said Li. The team discovered the fabric capacitor could charge and discharge thousands of times with minimal loss of performance.

The method used for making the fabric capacitor is not only inexpensive, but it is also green and doesn’t use chemicals that are harmful to the environment. The research could lead to clothing or even furniture that can one day charge or even control certain electronics.

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