Now THAT'S what you call power dressing! Smart clothes use solar energy to charge devices

  • Researchers have previously tried to create fibres to supply energy
  • But many of these couldn't withstand clothing manufacturing
  • The new material incorporates two types of fibre with cotton, creating a flexible material that is fully charged by sunlight  

We've all been there - you need to use your mobile phone at a critical moment, only to find that it has run out of battery.  

But the days of having to carry a phone charger with you could soon be a thing of the past.  

Researchers are giving a whole new meaning to 'power dressing' with the invention of smart clothes that use the sun's rays to change devices.

Researchers are giving a whole new meaning to 'power dressing' with the invention of smart clothes that use the sun's rays to change devices. Two types of fibres are interlaced between cotton to form a flexible material that is fully charged by sunlight

Researchers are giving a whole new meaning to 'power dressing' with the invention of smart clothes that use the sun's rays to change devices. Two types of fibres are interlaced between cotton to form a flexible material that is fully charged by sunlight

THE SMART MATERIAL 

The researchers created two different types of fibre - one containing titanium or a manganese-coated polymer along with zinc oxide, a dye and an electrolyte. 

These were interlaced with copper-coated polymer wires to create the solar cell section of the material.

To store power the researchers also created a second type of fibre made of titanium, titanium nitride, a thin carbon shell to prevent oxidation and an electrolyte.

These fibers were then woven with cotton yarn.

When combined the new materials formed a flexible textile the researchers could cut and tailor into a 'smart garment' that was fully charged by sunlight.

Before now, researchers have tried to create fibres to incorporate in garments to supply energy. 

But many of these couldn't withstand clothing manufacturing - particularly weaving and cutting.  

Now scientists from Jinan University in China say they have created a new fibre suitable for sewing into tailorable textiles that can capture and release solar power.  

The researchers created two different types of fibre - one containing titanium or a manganese-coated polymer along with zinc oxide, a dye and an electrolyte. 

These were interlaced with copper-coated polymer wires to create the solar cell section of the material.

The second type of fibre was made of titanium, titanium nitride, a thin carbon shell to prevent oxidation and an electrolyte.

These fibers were then woven with cotton yarn.

When combined, the new materials formed a flexible textile the researchers could cut and tailor into a 'smart garment' that was fully charged by sunlight.

They say the clothing - called a 'tailorable textile device' - could potentially power small electronics including tablets and phones.

Dr Wenjie Mai, who led the study, said: 'The 'threads' - fibre electrodes - featuring tailorability and knittability can be large-scale fabricated and then woven into energy textiles.' 

The material integrates dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) with fibre supercapacitors (FSCs) 

The material integrates dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) with fibre supercapacitors (FSCs) 

Pioneering products ranging from bendable smart phones and watches and biomedical skin-like devices indicate the era of wearable smart electronics has arrived.

Last year, Frank Golding, who used to work for Google as YouTube's US director of sport, said technology is becoming so advanced that parts of our clothing will be able to use our bodies as a power source. 

And other space-age materials will be able to display information and emit sound - eventually removing the need for separate screens or headphones.

Last year, Apple unveiled a £220 watch which can monitor your heart rate, give you directions, tell you how many calories you've burned, check you in for a flight, set your fitness goals and take pictures.

Last year, Apple unveiled a £220 watch which can monitor your heart rate, give you directions, tell you how many calories you've burned, check you in for a flight, set your fitness goals and take pictures

Last year, Apple unveiled a £220 watch which can monitor your heart rate, give you directions, tell you how many calories you've burned, check you in for a flight, set your fitness goals and take pictures

While current devices are in their early stages, experts believe that the wearable technology sector will rapidly expand over the next few years.

Dr Mai said: 'Several attempts have been made to fabricate wearable energy devices combined with a growing demand for lightweight and flexible energy systems.

'Our techniques make it possible to weave our different devices into a single layer of multi-functional textile in many possible patterns and tailor them into any designed shape without losing their performance.

'This breakthrough makes it possible to produce stylish smart energy garments with enhanced user experience and more room for fashion design.' 

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