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Power Technology

Nanowires Allow For Electricity-Generating Clothing 113

Posted by Zonk
from the next-step-in-this-direction-is-thermoptic-camoflage dept.
lee1 writes "The latest development in the field of 'energy harvesting', which includes such opportunistic technology such as self-winding watches, generators implanted in soldier's boots, and knee brace dynamos, is a cloth that generates electrical power. The cloth is newly developed by scientists in the US, and can produce up to 80 milliwatts per square metre. It is made from brush-like fibres composed of a Kevlar stalk surrounded by zinc oxide nanowire crystals that generate electricity through the piezoelectric effect. They can be grown on any substrate, including hair. The power harnessed from this effect could be used for anything from cosmetic components to the powering of medical devices."
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Nanowires Allow For Electricity-Generating Clothing

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  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:12PM (#22423076) Journal
    Can it be grown on sharks?
    /to power the frickin' laser beams
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mh1997 (1065630)
      From the article "The possibility of developing piezoelectric, or energy generating fibres or fabrics has been something that the smart fabrics research community has been speculating about for some time," P>

      I guess they are too young to remember wearing a polyester leisure suit and walking across carpeting.

      • Now there's a worry. Would a polyester leisure suit then serve as ECM for devices powered by this nanofabric? Is a polyester suit the new outfit for spies and saboteurs?
  • I wouldn't dress it on a rainy day... Bzzzzzzzzt
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:14PM (#22423108)
    up to 80 milliwatts ...

    Up to 10Mbit/s download speeds

    So how much power is that in practice? 5mW PSM? maybe 10 if you're an athlete?

    I think I'll stick to batteries, thanks

    • How much power is that supposed to have to a team of horses? 20?

      Is that when the dang thing works or not? And where do I get the oil from?

      You keep your new fangled "combustion engine".

      I'll stick to ol' Trigger here, thanks.
  • Think nuclear (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I know we all cringe, but nuclear energy really is the future. Small fission devices have the potential to make recharging a thing of the past--we don't even have to wait for fusion. These are good stopgaps until then--they too won't have to be recharged.
    • by Jaysyn (203771)
      I'm holding out for Shipstones(tm) myself :D

      • by Scruss (1130173)
        I am wondering how this could work with soldiers. Could you possibly harness enough energy to create a coat of armor that could render them invisible. I would like to see some halo armor come from this.
      • I'm holding out for Shipstones(tm) myself :D

        And nymphomaniac artificial people named after a day in the week.

        • by Jaysyn (203771)
          Friday wasn't a nymphomaniac. True (clinical) nympho's actually don't get any satisfaction from sex.
      • If you recall from "Friday" Shipstones are just extremly good batteries. They provide extremly convinient power storage NOT power creation... ...And I just realized how nerdy I am!
        • by Jaysyn (203771)
          Maybe I read it wrong but I coulda swore they used some kind of funky fusion to provide power.
          • by clonan (64380)
            They use all sorts of things to power them (like solar from the deserts).

            Remeber the orbital subway system from "The moon is a harsh mistress"? They stored the power used to launch the cab in shipstones. They were recharged when the cab was slowed at the destination.
            • by Jaysyn (203771)
              The Heinlein Concordance says it was solar power, so yeah I guess it was just a bad-ass battery.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by robertjw (728654)
      I'm cringing. There is NO WAY I'm wearing nuclear clothes.
  • by barocco (1168573) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:15PM (#22423120)
    Don't hug me bro!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:15PM (#22423132)
    The nanowire bath towels were a shocking failure.

    Proper marketing will be needed to overcome consumer resistance.
  • by Bandman (86149) <bandmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:16PM (#22423140) Homepage
    Wouldn't harnessing this energy make the material harder to move in?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KublaiKhan (522918)
      Not necessarily. You waste a lot of energy moving your clothing around as-is; the fabric would likely be a little stiffer, but that's probably about it--they're not making the whole thing out of kevlar, apparently.
    • by mtmra70 (964928)
      So you loose weight while you generate electricity!
    • by wattrlz (1162603)
      At 80 milliwatts per square meter you'd be looking at less than the difference asking for extra starch at the cleaners gives you.
    • by orclevegam (940336) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:47PM (#22423660) Journal

      Wouldn't harnessing this energy make the material harder to move in?
      Actually, in the case of the knee-brace generator it makes it easier to move. The knee-brace has a clutch mechanism that only engages on the absorption portion of the step (when your knee is flexing to absorb the impact and transfer your weight) so the resistance of the brace actually helps your legs absorb the impact of stepping. The only problem with the current model is that it's rather bulky and heavy so until it's made lighter it makes it harder to move just from the weight of it. There are lots of ways this could be used to actually improve efficiency (much like active-braking generators in cars) rather than decrease it. Remember, all friction heat and to a lesser extent gravity (falling down a gravity well) is wasted energy, recapturing as much as possible helps cut down on entropy.
      • Well you wouldn't get that advantage if you were using the energy to power an ipod like the article suggests. But yea that would probably be a more useful application, of course at the same time then everyone is getting even less exercise so it would be bad on a different level (if someones wearing it who is unhealthy due to lack of exercise).
    • by berwiki (989827)
      you're right, genius!
      force those couch-potatoes to power their own TV's!
      everyone will be fit in no time!
    • Wouldn't use of this material make it harder to travel through airports, train stations and similar in the US or US-co-opted EU nations...?

      What will this mean (if anything) for DSDs (data storage devices)?

      And, how much juice will be generated and discharged when wearers (become engage in heavily-mechanical, mind-blowing frottage (frotteurism)(consensual or not)? Will it be "shocking" and/or "scentillating"

      (captcha: "eagerly")
    • by gandhi_2 (1108023)
      Yes. Unless this cloth produces less sound or heat than normal cloth when moved, you are technically right. If it produces the same sound and heat, the energy MUST come from somewhere.
  • by AltGrendel (175092)
    Washing the shirt will ruin it.
  • How's the power generation scale with size?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:17PM (#22423180)
    ... is a way to generate electricity by masturbation. I could probably power my data center... and maybe yours too!
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:20PM (#22423208)
    Self-winding watches are great, because you don't have to do any extra work to wind them; they wind themselves according to the work you already do raising and lowering your arm (weight of the watch notwithstanding). Knee braces and such, though, break that model, because you have to do more physical work to generate the power.

    There is a lot of passive mechanical energy in our environment that can be harvested to generate power. But it has to make economical sense. If you can coat your house in nano piezoelectric filaments that generate twice the current that they cost, then good. Otherwise, why bother?

    • by InterGuru (50986)
      Self winding watches do take extra energy. Every time you move your wrist you expend energy to set the winding mechanism going.

      The amount of energy is so small as to be trivial and unnoticeable.

      I suspect that 80 milliwatt per square meter is also unnoticeable, as we expend several hundred watts in ordinary motion.

      When we worship philosophers, simply because they are philosophers, and denigrate plumbers simply because they are plumbers, we will soon find that neither our theories nor our pipes

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by sumdumass (711423)
      Why bother? Because cost doesn't seem to be an issue with the ecofriendly crowd that want alternative energy in use. If it costs 5 cents per kilowatt over 10 years or $5.00, it doesn't matter because they said it needs to happen and you will pay for it anyways if it is the only thing available.

      And if there are people too cheap to pay the extra, then demonize them, complain and cause the cost of regular energy to increase to a point there is a trade off with regulations and such then get mad at the governmen
      • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:17PM (#22424082)

        Why bother? Because cost doesn't seem to be an issue with the ecofriendly crowd that want alternative energy in use. If it costs 5 cents per kilowatt over 10 years or $5.00, it doesn't matter because they said it needs to happen and you will pay for it anyways if it is the only thing available.

        And if there are people too cheap to pay the extra, then demonize them, complain and cause the cost of regular energy to increase to a point there is a trade off with regulations and such then get mad at the government for a failing economy when energy costs are sucking all the extra money out of it.
        I strongly suspect this is less about "green" energy than it is generating energy in out-of-the-way places. The knee brace article mentions soldiers using it to charge/power their equipment in the field - where they'd typically be carrying around piles of batteries, or solar cells, or hauling around a generator. Being able to generate some electricity from simply walking sounds like a pretty nice trade-off. Similarly if you could make the soldier's uniforms out of this material, or make tents out of it, you could again reduce all the batteries and crap that they have to carry around.

        Or you could use these technologies in camping/hiking gear. Charge up your phone/laptop/radio while simply walking through the countryside.

        Or they could be used to create tech-friendly apparel. A jacket, perhaps, that keeps your iPod charged up at all times.

        Or they could be used to supply power where the local infrastructure is damaged or outright missing. Throw up some tents/shelters made out of this cloth and generate electricity for lighting.

        Or maybe something to throw into a survival kit. A little radio beacon sending out a constant SOS that's powered by your movement, or the clothes you wear.

        I mean, there are literally tons of non-green reasons to look into technology like this. It may never be an economically viable way to generate large-scale electricity... You may never power your house with it... But there are also plenty of places/situations where economics are not the most important factor.
        • by sumdumass (711423)
          Well, I was dealing with the GP's comment

          But it has to make economical sense. If you can coat your house in nano piezoelectric filaments that generate twice the current that they cost, then good. Otherwise, why bother?

          When addressing the point of using it like that. I probably should have been more clear by quoting his words. You can make the case that using it for the reasons you mentions pretty good unless they cost 5 million a swipe and that it could only charge an Ipod nano in which case it would be

          • Well if I had a house and could afford it it would be worth it to me to power everything with solar/wind power just to be self-reliant rather than depending on some massive government/corporation-controlled infrastructure, and as far as I can tell I'm not even that cynical about that stuff. I haven't looked into the lifespan of solar panels or anything yet though so maybe it wouldn't end up being worthwhile.
            • by sumdumass (711423)
              I doubt you would. The setup for solar/wind power so far would cost as much or more then your house would. So it wouldn't be a matter of if you could afford a house but if you could afford a couple houses. And even then, your return on investment is negetive. This means that you will spend more then you would ever save and it would either make your house relatively unmarketable or it would sell for lower then the costs of the modifications.

              Now if the costs were lower and you could save money or at least pay
        • by Magada (741361)
          Tents schments. You could hoist a flag/banner just about anywhere in the world and get electricity from the flutter.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by orclevegam (940336)

      Knee braces and such, though, break that model, because you have to do more physical work to generate the power.

      Another article talks more about the knee-brace. It actually helps you walk because it's got a clutch that only engages when your knee is flexing to absorb shock. It adds zero (more or less) resistance when lifting and adds resistance when bracing, so you end up recapturing a lot of the energy wasted on the down step. It's really the same principle as the active-braking systems in electric cars that allow them to recapture a lot of the energy used in accelerating the car when it's braking.

  • Props to Rudy Rucker...
  • by LaRoach (968977) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:22PM (#22423242)
    They can be grown on any substrate, including hair

    Then my back is gonna run the whole house!
    • by sckeener (137243)
      They can be grown on any substrate, including hair

      Then my back is gonna run the whole house!


      Nah...balding men are going to have artificial hair plugs that power their pace makers.
    • by sumdumass (711423)
      Yea, I'm betting my ass alone could supply energy to one of the neighbors less fortunate then I am.
  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:22PM (#22423250)
    I can see it now:

    "Grandpa, why won't you stop running?"

    "Can't Junior. If I stop, my pacemaker will shut down. I shouldn't even stop to talk to y-... *urk*"

    *thud*
  • Wonder if they could make synthetic trees out of this stuff and harvest wind power?
  • What about the static electricity generated by wool, fleece, and other types of clothing? Shoot, in these parts just about anything can generate static, and there's no feeling quite as electric as getting bit by 20,000 volts on the end of your finger whenever you step out of the car...
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      there's no feeling quite as electric as getting bit by 20,000 volts on the end of your finger whenever you step out of the car...
      Yeah, it's amazing they don't shut down gas stations in winter what with the irrational fear of people using a cell phone there igniting gas fumes.
    • by Dmala (752610)
      ...and there's no feeling quite as electric as getting bit by 20,000 volts on the end of your finger whenever you step out of the car...

      Actually, there is. Let's just say that you should make damn sure that you and your partner are both grounded before attempting to have sex on a dry, winter day.
  • well.. a field of "wheat" gathering energy from the wind might be prettier than a windmill. until them aliens start making their crop circles.
  • How silly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hyc (241590) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:27PM (#22423334) Homepage Journal
    They should just weave this stuff in with silk or wool and channel off the electricity from static buildup. Simple.
  • Years from now, when we are all feeding the huge network of computers that run our lives and the world with power generated by mere movement in the cloths we are forced to wear, we will remember that this news item did not alarm us at all.

    Doh!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Surt (22457)
      Years from now we aren't remembering it, because we think it wasn't thousands of years in the past, thanks to the matrix.
  • by Charcharodon (611187) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:31PM (#22423412)
    Make the bed sheets out of them....

    "Damn it woman, leave me alone and go to sleep. Don't give me that "my iPod needs charging", I already checked it, it's full.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Damn it you horny bastard, I have a headache! Leave me alone and go to sleep. Don't give me that "my iPod needs charging", I already checked it, it's full.

      There, fixed it for you.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by Charcharodon (611187)
        Haha, yeah I was thinking along those lines too when I was writing it.

        Of course having a full charge on your cell phone when she calls you while you are "out with the boys" could get you in a lot of trouble.

        " WTF?! Your cell phone battery isn't about to die, YOU'RE CHEATING ON ME! Don't try to tell me you put it on the car charger because took the cable out of your car when I got suspicious.

  • This new material will help make some shocking fashion statements, with the magnetic-like catwalk attracting Wired magazine to cover the gadget couture.

    Sure to be a winner in Paris is the Jarvik pacemaker clothing line, followed with a grammy for the iJacket from Apple.

    It's predicted that by the 2010 games, an additional $200 Billion will be spent on security scanners due to increased requirements from nano-clothing.

    The **AA have jointly endorsed scanners at concerts and other creative media events to preve
  • I submitted this yesterday, it was probably already in the firehose. I saw it at New Scientist [newscientist.com], where I followed some links to Professor Wang's press release [nsf.gov].

    Yes, that's really his name. Here [gatech.edu] is his research group's home page.

    -mcgrew [slashdot.org]
    • by Electrawn (321224)
      Not everyone emulates Butthead's laugh when hearing Wang in the computing world. Most slashdot folks should know about Wang Labs, until it was absorbed by Kodak in '97. The joke died in the '70s, man.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sm62704 (957197)
        The joke died in the '70s, man.

        No it didn't, I've been keeping it on life support.

        The place I worked at had a Wang minicomputer as late as 1995, and even bough Wang PCs. The secretaries all loved Wangs!
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @02:50PM (#22423718)
    If the clothing can produce power, it must transfer energy. Movement must overcome the load. Energy is not free.

    This is now the basis for programmable exercise clothing, electrically adjust how hard it is to walk or run to increase load. A small computer controlled load can be applied.

    It's mine, and if any of you IP mofos steal it, I'll sue!!!
    • So now we have to worry about people hacking our clothing?

      "Honest officer, the pimple-face kid in my neighbor's basement made me grab her ass"
    • by Surt (22457)
      It was yours, until you made a public revelation. Now you're screwed unless you already filed the patent.
      • by mlwmohawk (801821)
        It was yours, until you made a public revelation. Now you're screwed unless you already filed the patent.

        This post is prior art.
      • Not true actually. He has 1 year to file the patent from this date. At least that's how it's supposed to work. With the patent system the way it is today who the hell knows.
    • by Sauron23 (52474)
      Remember the solar powered street lights? http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/12/29/1320205 [slashdot.org] Something similar but add flag sized sheets of this stuff arranged in such a way as to not block the lamps or solar panels. If it's so dark the solar isn't charging it's probably cloudy which means there should be some wind. Shrug. I'm loosing interest even as I type. Why not just put a conventional windmill in. Self lighting flag poles? Hmmm. I'd better keep my day job. This get rich quick thing is tough.
  • JERRY: George! Nice duds!

    GEORGE: You're telling me. So, what do you think?

    JERRY: Did you hear something?

    ELAINE: Yeah, like a swoosh.

    JERRY: Yeah.

    ELAINE: It must be the fabric. It's rubbing between you thighs when you walk. That's what's making that swooshy sound.

    GEORGE: I probably didn't hear it on the way over because of the street noise. This is no good! I got to meet these guys from MacKenzie for lunch in half an hour!

    JERRY: So you think you're not gonna get the job because your pants make

  • So if I mix this with the SurfaceSound Material [slashdot.org] then I could have clothes that generate power for my MP3 player and also plays the sound back.

    Just think of the people dancing down the street blasting music and generating the power from their own dancing! Non-stop music!
  • What happens when you wrap a very low voltage electro-chemical system in a material that generates electricity (at likely a much higher voltage!)?? ... Cancer? ... significant health problems?? ... disruptions to brain activity???

    Most of the scientific community seems to hold tightly to the notion that the human body is electrically neutral, ignoring that a human being is really an electro-chemical battery! Acupuncture deals with minute changes in the electrical potential of specific areas of the body, wh

    • Wow, who let the crackpot in. Why don't you go enlighten one of those flat-earth guys. Better run, I think I hear some black helicopters headed this way.
    • I prefer to only belive the considerable studies that say there are links between disease and EMF and South Pole fields.

      You ignore one side, I'll ignore the other. Then we can all get together and whine about global warming too!!!
    • by Chris Burke (6130)
      Most of the scientific community seems to hold tightly to the notion that the human body is electrically neutral, ignoring that a human being is really an electro-chemical battery!

      I know! That's why the machines want to use us as a power source!

      Forget your silly EMF cancers, the real danger is that instead of plugging our bodies into their big generators while our brains are allowed to run free in a computer-generated utopia where we can all do super kung-fu, they'll keep us awake so we can run on treadmil
  • Rain (Score:2, Insightful)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544)
    What happens when it rains or snows?
    What happens when you touch someone else who is "charged"?
  • Will it generate enough power to recharge the Tasers in my super-suit? Somehow I doubt it. Hard to fight crime when you're trailing an extension cord!
  • Alarm Sensors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sciop101 (583286) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @03:08PM (#22423972)
    This would make outstanding surface alarm matrix.

    Woven into carpet, or embedded into a concrete/asphalt surface, with proper processing, this system could discriminate footsteps, vehicles, even seismic activity.

  • What we need to do is distribute these to people attending weddings. Then, once they perform the "electric slide," they could harness enough power to replace all coal refining plants in the world! It's electric, boogie woogie woogie.
  • Though I haven't been able really "power" anything with it yet, unless you count my finger tips which it transforms into magnetic media "encrypters".

    As for the idea of putting in hair, my cat has prior art on that. But she's too lazy to even be a patent troll, so I wouldn't worry about it.

    However this shakes out, lets just hope they avoid using the new fabrics in rain coats, swim wear, or lingerie. Hmm, or anything you'd eventually want to put in a washing machine.
  • I heard about this on NPR yesterday you can't wash the fabric yet because of the material's reaction with water. Get ready for funk.

  • Perhaps RLS is a throw-forward for mobile computing and that problematic power source? I know that I could have created a megawatt over my lifetime.
  • can produce up to 80 milliwatts per square metre

    Can I get that in Ergs / Library of Congresses or perhaps something related to an Automobile?

  • Imagine, war in the future...

    Your fission generator just died and your batteries drain quickly. The enemies are closing in. Your laser rifle is useless now. You are ready to die. They caught up to you. Many bullets where fired at you. And then you say, "Hahahah, thanks for recharging my batteries. Now I can use my laser rifle. Die!!" :)
  • So a large breasted woman could power all kind of devices right? And the "power" captured would be taking stress away from the skin. So they would be less inclined to sag in the future right? You could prolly even tell who was natural and who wasn't by the power output, as the fake one's tend to be more.. solid. This should be done for the good of mankind!
  • that paisley polyester under the home dyed wool vest could generate 10000 volts...
  • I will be able to use my laptop for the duration of cross-continental and trans-continental flights. All I have to do is stalk up and down the aisle like a madman every couple hours! Come to think of it, the drink carts will have a hard time getting down the aisle with all the laptop user traffic, though.
  • There seems to be a spate of "wow, I found this (really old) technology called piezoelectricty, and it will SAVE TEH WORLD" announcements lately.

    Piezoelectricity is cool, but not terribly useful for useful electrical power generation. It is far more useful as a sensor mechanism. Want to know how much flex your (building, ship, car frame,etc.) structure is undergoing? Use a piezoelectrical coating to determine that. How about "Hull Integrity"? Cells of this type of coating on the surface of a ship or aircra

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