AF-TENG Fabric Turns Your Clothes Into a Wearable Generator — and Doubles as a Sensor, Too

Made out of nothing more than fibers and nanowires, this smart fabric can power a string of 126 LEDs by harvesting energy from motion.

A team of scientists from the Universities of Fukui and Nanjing have created a fabric which is breathable, comfortable — and could power future wearable electronics, thanks to energy-harvesting and force-sensing properties.

The clothing developed by the team relies on a usually-unwelcome effect of layering dissimilar fabrics: The generation of static electricity. Using electrospun fibers, the team built up a fabric material which layers polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), nylon, and polystyrene, with a coating of silver nanowires. The fabric remains soft, breathable, and comfortable — but harvests energy as the wearer moves.

"The power generation device has flexibility and breathability since all components are composed of fiber materials," explains corresponding author Hiroaki Sakamoto, PhD, of the material. "This device shows great potential in harvesting the static electricity from our clothes."

In testing the wearable nanogenerator fabric — dubbed AF-TENG — was able to harvest enough energy from motion to run a string of 126 commercial off-the-shelf LEDs, each rated at 0.06W. Its peak output was measured at 200V and its current density at 70mA/m².

The fabric has a second trick up its sleeve, too: When integrated into traditional fabrics the AF-TENG material doubles as a real-time force directive sensor, which the team notes offers "excellent performance with a high signal-to-noise ratio."

The work has been published in the journal Nano Energy under closed-access terms.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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