By Sarah Yang, Media Relations | 12 February 2010
BERKELEY — In research that gives literal meaning to the term “power suit,” University of California, Berkeley, engineers have created energy-scavenging nanofibers that could one day be woven into clothing and textiles.
fiber nanogeneratorShown is a fiber nanogenerator on a plastic substrate created by UC Berkeley scientists. The nanofibers can convert energy from mechanical stresses and into electricity, and could one day be used to create clothing that can power small electronics. (Chieh Chang, UC Berkeley)
These nano-sized generators have “piezoelectric” properties that allow them to convert into electricity the energy created through mechanical stress, stretches and twists.
“This technology could eventually lead to wearable ‘smart clothes’ that can power hand-held electronics through ordinary body movements,” said Liwei Lin, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering and head of the international research team that developed the fiber nanogenerators.
Because the nanofibers are made from organic polyvinylidene fluoride, or PVDF, they are flexible and relatively easy and cheap to manufacture.
Although they are still working out the exact calculations, the researchers noted that more vigorous movements, such as the kind one would create while dancing the electric boogaloo, should theoretically generate more power. “And because the nanofibers are so small, we could weave them right into clothes with no perceptible change in comfort for the user,” said Lin, who is also co-director of the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center at UC Berkeley.