Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, developed the energy-scavenging nanofibers that can convert energy created through mechanical stress, stretches and twists into electricity, furthering hope of creating clothing that can power small electronics.
Liwei Lin, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering and head of the international research team that developed the fiber nanogenerators, said: "This technology could eventually lead to wearable 'smart clothes' that can power hand-held electronics through ordinary body movements."
Lin, also co-director of the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center at UC Berkeley, added: "And because the nanofibers are so small, we could weave them right into clothes with no perceptible change in comfort for the user."
Chieh Chang, the study's lead author, who conducted the experiments while he was a graduate student in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, explained: "Surprisingly, the energy efficiency ratings of the nanofibers are much greater than the 0.5 to 4 percent achieved in typical power generators made from experimental piezoelectric PVDF thin films, and the 6.8 percent in nanogenerators made from zinc oxide fine wires."
Lin continued: "We think the efficiency likely could be raised further. For our preliminary results, we see a trend that the smaller the fiber we have, the better the energy efficiency. We don't know what the limit is."
Other co-authors of the study were Yiin-Kuen Fuh, a UC Berkeley graduate student in mechanical engineering; Van H. Tran, a graduate student at the Technische Universitat Munchen (Technical University of Munich) in Germany; and Junbo Wang, a researcher at the Institute of Electronics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China.
The fiber nanogenerators were described in the Nano Letters, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Chemical Society.