Washable fabric generates power from the body

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed a stretchable and waterproof fabric that can turn energy generated from body movements into electrical energy.

The critical component in the fabric is a polymer that – when pressed or squeezed – converts mechanical stress into electrical energy. The fabric is made with stretchable spandex as a base layer and integrated with a rubber-like material to keep it strong, flexible, and waterproof.

In a proof-of-concept experiment reported in a scientific journal, the NTU Singapore team showed that by tapping on a 3cm by 4cm piece of the new fabric enough electrical energy was generated to light up 100 LEDs.

Materials scientist and NTU associate Professor Lee Pooi See led the study and stated that many attempts have been made to develop fabrics or garments that can harvest energy from movement. It has been a challenge so far to develop something that does not degrade in function and maintains excellent electrical output after being washed.  He declared that the team’s prototype has proven to be functioning well after washing and crumpling. The fabric can be woven into t-shirts or integrated into soles of shoes to collect energy from the body’s smallest movements, piping electricity to mobile devices.