Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Researchers create t-shirt that can charge mobile phones

A mobile phone dying on you is perhaps the most common of occurrences in owning a cell phone, the charger invariably not being there at the right time or place and every other charger in existence mysteriously absent. Its often a good a excuse to use when you don’t want to return phone calls or messages but jokes aside, one experiences a dead battery as often as can be and while prudence may dictate that one be prepared it sometimes may so happen that fate itself forbids the chance. What to do then?

Well according to recent research conducted by scientists at the University of South Carolina, charging a phone or any other device may no longer require a plug or a socket but simply can be slipped into the breast pocket of a shirt and get charged. The ‘how’ of course comes from a t-shirt that the researchers have created that is able to store electrical charge and according to the researchers the fabric is able to be recharged thousands of times.
Professor of mechanical engineering, Xiaodong Li, with post-doctorate researcher Lihong Bao, publishing their work in the journal, Advanced Materials, demonstrated that by using a cheap t-shirt, bought from a discount store, they could convert the simple fabric into one that basically acts as a capacitor, storing electrical energy.
The researchers first took the t-shirt and soaked it in a solution of fluoride after which they baked the t-shirt at high temperature in an oven free of any oxygen. The t-shirt that is then produced is according to Professor Li, an example of "flexible energy storage," explaining that, “We wear fabric every day. One day our cotton T-shirts could have more functions; for example, a flexible energy storage device that could charge your cell phone or your iPad."
Through the above process the cellulose of the t-shirt’s fabric is turned into activated carbon making it a capacitor but the fabric itself still remains flexible. If this activated carbon fabric is then treated with a nanometer thick coat of manganese oxide, this changes the fabric into a supercapacitor.
Speaking about this new invention, Prof Li said that the above process “created a stable, high-performing supercapacitor," adding that, “By stacking these supercapacitors up, we should be able to charge portable electronic devices such as cell phones.”
In tests the supercapacitor fabric demonstrated very impressive electrical storage abilities, showing only a 5 per cent decrease in performance after 1000 charge-recharge cycles. Besides of course being used for charging this supercapacitor fabric could also be used for ‘roll-up’ smartphones and laptops.

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