ATLANTA – Picture this: you’re walking down the street and your movements are charging your cell phone. Scientists at Georgia Tech say it’s real, and the secret is in your clothing.
"If we can make it thin enough, dense enough to make on a fabric, you make a power shirt," said Dr. Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents' professor at Tech's School of Materials Science and Engineering.
The power shirt – or jacket or vest – is the likely result of the ongoing research of Dr. Wang who, in a basement laboratory at Tech, has created an electricity-generating textile.
"(It's) a power fabric," Wang said. "A fabric that can convert any kind of physical motion, sunlight, solar light, light, into electricity for wearable electronics."
Sewn into a garment, the textile could turn any person in motion or out in the sunshine into a human power plant – potentially producing enough wattage to keep charged a cell phone or wristwatch or, placed sub-dermally, even a pacemaker.
Georgia Tech has tested textile fragments that have generated power. Wang admits such a garment could produce a small shock if touched. "A little bit. Not much," he said, likening it to a static electricity shock felt during dry weather. "Small shock but not big," Wang said.
Such a garment would also be costly at first, but Dr. Wang says the cost should drop. Washability is also an issue for further scientific research. "Dry cleaning is definitely a possibility," Wang said.
Its lifesaving potential excites Tech researchers – who picture making “smart garments” that can monitor heart patients and other medical conditions with electricity-generating textiles.