This electricity generating yarn could change the face of wearable tech

The carbon nanotube yarn generates electricity with just a tug.


With the explosion of products like smartwatches, fitness trackers, sports watches and other connected devices, the wearable tech market is becoming increasingly prevalent in our day to day lives. Over the past few years it's even expanded to include items like Pauline Van Dongen’s posture-correcting shirt and a student designed wearable thermoelectric generator. Now, a newly developed electricity generating yarn could be the next step in powering these wearable items.

Developed by researchers from Texas and South Korea, the groundbreaking yarn utilises carbon nanotubes - a tube-shaped material, made of carbon, having a diameter measuring on the nanometer scale. Boasting an array of electronic, magnetic and mechanical properties, the research team twisted these carbon nanotube strings before submerging it in an electrolyte gel, giving it it’s power producing properties.

Aptly dubbed the “twistron”, the yarn generates electricity when stretched or twisted. In a test, the team of scientists sewed the product into a shirt and noticed the small amount of electricity produced when the wearer breathed in and out. They also connected the yarn to an artificial muscle and found they were able to convert the fluctuations in temperature into energy.

The energy generated from a single thread is enough to power an LED, and when lumped together, they can put out 250 watts per kilogram when stretched at 30 times per second.

“Electronic textiles are of major commercial interest, but how are you going to power them?” research team member Ray Baughman says. “Harvesting electrical energy from human motion is one strategy for eliminating the need for batteries. Our yarns produced over a hundred times higher electrical power per weight when stretched compared to other weavable fibers reported in the literature.”

To learn more about this remarkable development, you can read the entire research paper here.

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