It’s Saturday and that means it’s guest post time! This week’s guest post is all about a new gadget: a T-shirt which can charge your gadgets!
Portable Power: T-Shirts That Can Carry a Charge
The next time you curse yourself for forgetting your phone or iPad charger on a long trip might just be your last. This won't be because your absent-mindedness finally drives you to swear off portable electronic devices for good (although that might be nice for a change) but because some recently-announced news out of the University of South Carolina has the potential to completely change the way such devices get their charge. Read on to learn how these high-energy articles of clothing work.
How it WorksEnergy can be found in some unexpected places. To imbue these T-shirts with a permanent electric charge, USC researchers soaked them in a fluoride solution and quickly baked them in special high-temperature, low-oxygen ovens to set the fluoride particles in place without causing the fabric to catch fire. The particles seem to bind to individual fibres within the shirt's fabric, creating an exceptionally high density of energy that remains inert when it's not being accessed. In other words, your energy-storage shirt won't continuously shock you.
Nothing SpecialAlthough it's not advisable to try to replicate the fluoride-baking process at home, charging shirts can in theory be made from simple store-bought T-shirts. The baking process somehow doesn't affect the flexibility, feel, or weight of the shirts, which seem able to exchange charges with electronic devices almost indefinitely without seriously compromising their ability to store electricity. According to Xiaodong Li, the lead researcher on the project, charging shirts retain 95% of their efficiency even after completing thousands of discrete charge cycles.
Potential UsesFor now, Li and the rest of the USC research team aims to prove that its shirts can successfully charge a cell phone, but he has high hopes that their energy density can be increased further. Ultimately, the shirts might be able to charge iPads and other devices whose large visual displays suck energy at a higher rate. There's no indication as yet of how long it might take to convey a full charge, and early versions of the charging shirt may be better suited as supplemental devices, maintaining rather than boosting a given device's charge. Regardless, a shirt with even a limited ability to maintain a charge would set a new standard of convenience.
Green Power, with Some CaveatsThese charging shirts would also set a new green energy standard. Wall and car chargers are significant consumers both of fossil fuels and construction materials, whereas the only non-renewable energy input that electrically-charged shirts require is the initial baking process.
A few questions remain unanswered. One big one: given the uneasy relationship between water and electricity, it's unclear how these shirts would react to liquids. Obviously, shirts that shock wearers who sweat profusely or find themselves caught in the rain would quickly become impractical.
It's still early, but the new energy-storage T-shirt developed by University of South Carolina researchers has the potential to radically change how and where portable electronic devices can be used, and it might just upend the billion-dollar portable-charger industry in the process.Diana Walters blogs about the latest in technology and fashion. If portable-electronic charging t-shirts have got you itching to design your own clothes, Diana suggests designing your own printed clothing to show your personal style.
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