Have you ever thought of charging your cell phone with your t-shirt? Xiaodong Li, a professor of mechanical engineering at University of South Carolina, envisions the future with electronics as a part of our wardrobe and is making his vision into reality with the help of Lihong Bao, a post doctoral researcher.
They explained how an ordinary material in a cotton t-shirt can be turned into a source of electrical power by a simple chemical activation route that includes traditional dipping, drying and curing process, where activated carbon fibers are produced from the fibers from a t-shirt, yet retaining its flexibility.
Researchers showed that these activate carbon textile acts as a capacitor with the use of small pieces of the fiber as an electrode, proving the once-cotton t-shirt is a repository for electricity. This activated carbon textile has high energy storage densities that acts like double-layer capacitors are also called supercapacitors. “Nanoflowers” of manganese oxide is coated in the individual fibers enhances the electrode performance of the fabric, making the super capacitor constantly high-performing. When these super capacitors are stacked up, it is able to charge portable devices such as cell phones.
Li proudly confirmed that their product goes through an environmentally friendly process which is very inexpensive, unlike previous methods with the use of oil which are complicated and produced harmful side products. Li and Bao will be working with industry partners soon to take this concept to market.