We often talk about strange and unique pairings of technology and t-shirts. From something as simple as photo-realistic designs, to the addition of QR codes that are scannable by smartphones, t-shirt makers are doing everything in their power to bring the t-shirt into the 21st century and beyond. University of South Carolina professor Xiaodone Li has taken things one step further, and has found a way to transform t-shirts INTO a new technology.
Through his research, he has been able to take a standard off the shelf $5 Walmart t-shirt, and by treating it in various chemical solutions and baking it repeatedly, managed to transform the simple cotton fabric into a new kind of energy storage device. The goal is that eventually, such a t-shirt could function as a wearable cell phone charger. The process is low-cost, and is significantly more environmentally-friendly than producing standard batteries and chargers. Li has also found a way to transform similar shirts into lightweight, low-cost body armor.
Practical applications are further down the road. The technology and production process needs to be scaled up, and in order to do that, Li is seeking industrial partners. But, given the potential of such a revolutionary shirt, chances are it won’t be long before a non-powered t-shirt will be seen as antiquated.