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'Smart clothing' could someday power cell phones with the sun's rays

October 05, 2016

Batteries in smart phones and other portable electronics often die at inopportune times. Carrying a spare battery is one solution. As an alternative, researchers have tried to create fibers to incorporate in clothing that would power these devices. However, many of these fibers can't withstand clothing manufacturing, especially weaving and cutting. Now, in the journal ACS Nano, scientists report the first fibers suitable for weaving into tailorable textiles that can capture and release solar energy.

To collect solar power, Wenjie Mai, Xing Fan and colleagues created two different types of fibers. One contained titanium or a manganese-coated polymer along with zinc oxide, a dye and an electrolyte. These fibers were then interlaced with copper-coated polymer wires to create the solar cell section of the textile. To store power, the researchers developed a second type of fiber. This one was made of titanium, titanium nitride, a thin carbon shell to prevent oxidation and an electrolyte. These fibers were woven with cotton yarn.

When combined, the new materials formed a flexible textile that the team could cut and tailor into a "smart garment" that was fully charged by sunlight. The researchers say the clothing could potentially power small electronics including tablets and phones.
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The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China; the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province, China; and China's Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University.

The paper's abstract is available here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsnano.6b05293

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With nearly 157,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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