Have you heard about the self-sustainable textile that produces and stores energy generated by the human body?

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Self-sustainable devices remain rare nowadays. However, high technology can finally change this situation. A new textile made of electronic microfibers is coming to add more value to sustainable fabrics. The conduit is sweat and the primary source is the sun! Read more. 

A self-sustainable wearable multi-modular fabric is coming to market to reinvent batteries!

In addition, unlike hybrid systems, the new electronic microfibers rely on human activity (i.e., their sweat) to generate and store energy. So this electronic fabric (aka e-textile) turns out to be the most advanced concept of sustainable fabrics.

In other words, the e-textile harvests biochemical and biomechanical energy from the user's sweat. Sun is this "bioenergy" primary source.

According to Nature Communications, in order to meet the growing power demands of wearable electronics and eliminate the need for frequent, interrupting recharges and cumbersome wired power transmission, wearable systems have integrated energy harvesters such as solar cells, triboelectric generators (TEGs), and enzymatic or microbial biofuel cells (BFCs) to enable their self-sustainable operation.

How e-textile works

The researchers at the University of Central Florida (UCF) took the first step towards creating a textile fiber that turns solar energy into renewable energy. 

The e-textile holds and generates energy without harming the environment.

The fabric's fibers are made of copper, very thin, very light, and very flexible. One of its tracks has solar cells, and the other track has layers for collecting solar energy. It's done through modules. 

Those modules are waterproof and function as flexible interconnections printed in silver, attached, and insulated by a polystyrene block copolymer.

The so-called "triboelectric generators" are located on the outside of the shirt or jacket at the level of the forearms, and the torso. These generators are made from negatively and positively charged materials.

When the arms swing against the torso while walking or running, the oppositely charged materials rub against each other, generating electricity.

In short, the stored energy is produced due to the following sources during exercising:

  1. Triboelectric generators capture the energy generated by the user's arm movements while walking or running.
  2. Sweat captured by the solar cells is converted into electricity that is stored in the capacitor of the clothing.

The structure of the e-textile microfiber system

Although being electrically interconnected, the fabric is washable!

The solar cells, or biofuel cells, embedded in the fabric are equipped with enzymes that trigger an electron exchange between molecules of lactate from sweat, plus oxygen from the atmosphere that generates water and pyruvate, another by-product of metabolism.

While operating, solar cells start producing electricity to power the sensors of the device just like the way Bluetooth system does. So the e-textile starts to transmit the readings from its sensors. All wirelessly.

Nature Communications conducts an experiment that becomes a success!

"The wearable microgrid was tested on volunteers in 30-minute sessions of physical activity, on a bicycle, running, and 20 minutes at rest. The wearable microgrid powered an LCD wristwatch and a small electrochromic display during each 30-minute session in the study. This functionality will be ideal for smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices."

A system that can be useful for many important purposes

Piezoelectricity is subject of great interest to the scientific community since the 1880s. It turns out to be the application of mechanical stress to solid materials such as crystals, ceramics, bone, and DNA to generate energy. In subcutaneous wear technology, such as pacemakers and other implants, the importance of e-textile may be vital.

Pacemaker batteries last an average of a decade before the body begins to reject them. That's why the medical community is very concerned about this issue. Hence, self-charging batteries for implants and cardioverter-defibrillators are vital.

Actually, the problem could be solved with batteries powered by energy harvested from repetitive movements within the body. such as heartbeats.

E-textile happens to be a huge invention to end the battery limited lifespan of many devices!


The development of devices that collect energy from passive activities of the user, will broaden the applicable scenarios and increase the practicality of the micro-grid systems.   

In other words, this new concept of e-textile will surely broaden the range of applications in the manufacture of self-powered and sustainable systems. After all, it turns out to be a happy combination of engineering, nano-medicine, and flexible electronics. The future is now! 

By Marco Veado - THINK GREEN