Self-charging stretchable fabric for wearables

May 14, 2020 // By Julien Happich
stretchable fabric spandex
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and from the Georgia Institute of Technology have designed a stretchable fabric that incorporates not only microsupercapacitors (MSCs) but also triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) so it can charge itself before powering smart garments.

The stretchable fabric incorporates both TENGs and MSCs fabricated through a resist-dyeing method in a planar configuration, with their Ni-coated electrodes shown to maintain conductivity at 600% and 200% tensile strain along course and wale directions, respectively.

Described in more detail in a paper titled “Stretchable Coplanar Self-Charging Power Textile with Resist-Dyeing Triboelectric Nanogenerators and Microsupercapacitors” published in the AC Nano journal, the self-charging fabric consists of a knitted fabric (90% polyester, 10% Spandex) onto which conductive nickel electrodes are selectively patterned through electroless Ni deposition.

Subsequently, to create the MSCs, reduced graphene oxide (rGO) films are deposited onto the conductive textiles by a hydrothermal reduction of graphene oxide with Ni. A gel-type electrolyte (PVALiCl) was applied to achieve the solid-state textile MSCs which the researchers demonstrated, could be designed into arbitrary-shaped logos or patterns for good aesthetics.

Such microsupercapacitors were reported to reach a voltage up to 3.2V and discharge capacitances of 5.0, 4.9, 4.2mF at a galvanostatic discharging current of 0.5, 1.0, 2.0mA, respectively. These textile-based planar MSCs were able to power a watch at a strain of 50% after being charged. As for the TENGs, they were formed as dual in-plane Ni-coated electrodes, with an elastomeric PDMS thin layer coated on top of only one of the electrodes. The stretchable fabric TENG then operates when a polyester textile comes in contact with the TENG textile.

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