Now you can power your cell phone just by wearing a special shirt made of two tiny layers of nanowires that rub against each other as you move. These super-conductive wires are "piezoelectric," generating energy through pressure and movement. The result is a shirt that generates more electricity the more you move around. A few weeks ago, a research team at Georgia Tech announced the first generation power shirt (you can see the two layers of nano wires above), speculating that it could someday power small electronic devices like iPods or mobiles.
According to a release from the National Science Foundation, which partially funded the research:
Zhong Lin Wang and collaborators Xudong Wang and Yong Qin have made more than 200 of the fiber nanogenerators. Each is tested on an apparatus that uses a spring and wheel to move one fiber against the other. The fibers are rubbed together for up to 30 minutes to test their durability and power production.
The researchers have measured current of about four nanoamperes and output voltage of about four millivolts from a nanogenerator that included two fibers that were each one centimeter long. With a much improved design, Wang estimates that a square meter of fabric made from the special fibers could theoretically generate as much as 80 milliwatts of power.
So far, there is only one wrinkle in the fabric, so to speak - washing it. Zinc oxide is sensitive to moisture, so in real shirts or jackets, the nanowires would have to be protected from the effects of the washing machine.
I guess that means no sweating either. So you have to power your shirt up by moving around, but if you sweat on it you'll blow the generator. We might need to rethink this one.
Nanowire Shirt [NSF]