These Wearable Fibers can Generate and Store Energy

image provided by pixabay

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) have developed new battery and solar fibers for wearable electronics with an ambition to develop versatile wearable electronic devices. This technology can reportedly be woven into clothing and has the potential to harvest and store electrical energy, and could power high-performance wearable electronics that breathe, stretch, and wash just like conventional textiles.

Most current fiber batteries are hindered by scalability and performance limitations, and so the scientists engineered fiber batteries with a stacked design – an approach that involves layer lamination and laser machining to devise extremely narrow battery fibers.

“As demands for electronic textiles change, there is a need for smaller power sources that are reusable, durable, and stretchable,” explained the lead investigator of the project, Konstantinos Gerasopoulos, adding that the vision is “to develop solar harvesting fibers that can convert sunlight to electricity and battery fibers that can store the generated electricity in the textile.”

According to Interesting Engineering, the key to this progress is the development of poly separators that allow the lamination of conventional battery electrodes using a heated rolling press, which are then laser-cut to form fibers that were shown to be able to store up to 0.61 milliwatt-hours of energy per centimeter of fiber length.

Furthermore, the fiber batteries have been designed to be equipped in a roll-to-roll fashion, signifying a new approach that delivers optimal utilization of active materials, low content of inactive materials, scalability, and compatibility with widely used battery industry equipment.

Co-author of the paper Jason Tiffany stated: “We can process 100 meters of total fiber in a little over five hours… With our process, we can make the fibers smaller and more energy-dense, which could open even more opportunities for textile applications.”

The solar-powered fibers were encapsulated in polymer to allow integration into textiles and showed resilience even after extensive bending and exposure to light, keeping their high performance and durability “even after bending over 8,000 times.”

This new smart textile technology could enable various important dual-use applications, such as health monitoring, warming clothing, and providing power for soldiers’ equipment.

Textiles that integrate light energy harvesting and battery fibers could revolutionize what wearables today can achieve. This new study represents a paradigm shift in fiber battery technology, paving the way for the realization of high-performance wearable and textile electronics.