Transforming any existing cloth item or textile into a self-powered e-textile containing sensors and much more

Purdue University researchers have developed a new fabric innovation that allows the wearer to control electronic devices through the clothing

New rainproof, stainproof technology turns clothing into self-powered remotes

A new addition to your wardrobe may soon help you turn on the lights and music – while also keeping you fresh, dry, fashionable, clean and safe from the latest virus that’s going around.

Purdue University researchers have developed a new fabric innovation that allows wearers to control electronic devices through clothing.

“It is the first time there is a technique capable to transform any existing cloth item or textile into a self-powered e-textile containing sensors, music players or simple illumination displays using simple embroidery without the need for expensive fabrication processes requiring complex steps or expensive equipment,” said Ramses Martinez, an assistant professor in the School of Industrial Engineering and in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering.

The technology is featured in the July 25 edition of Advanced Functional Materials.

“For the first time, it is possible to fabricate textiles that can protect you from rain, stains, and bacteria while they harvest the energy of the user to power textile-based electronics,” Martinez said. “These self-powered e-textiles also constitute an important advancement in the development of wearable machine-human interfaces, which now can be washed many times in a conventional washing machine without apparent degradation.”

Martinez said the Purdue waterproof, breathable and antibacterial self-powered clothing is based on omniphobic triboelectric nanogenerators (RF-TENGs) – which use simple embroidery and fluorinated molecules to embed small electronic components and turn a piece of clothing into a mechanism for powering devices. The Purdue team says the RF-TENG technology is like having a wearable remote control that also keeps odors, rain, stains and bacteria away from the user.

“While fashion has evolved significantly during the last centuries and has easily adopted recently developed high-performance materials, there are very few examples of clothes on the market that interact with the user,” Martinez said. “Having an interface with a machine that we are constantly wearing sounds like the most convenient approach for a seamless communication with machines and the Internet of Things.”

The technology is being patented through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology CommercializationThe researchers are looking for partners to test and commercialize their technology.

Learn more: This designer clothing lets users turn on electronics while turning away bacteria

 

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Powering wearable sensors and electronics with human movement gets practical

An electron microscope image shows a cross-section of a laser-induced graphene and polyimide composite created at Rice University for use as a triboelectric nanogenerator. The devices are able to turn movement into energy that can then be stored for later use. Courtesy of the Tour Group

Rice University’s laser-induced graphene nanogenerators could power future wearables

Wearable devices that harvest energy from movement are not a new idea, but a material created at Rice University may make them more practical.

The Rice lab of chemist James Tour has adapted laser-induced graphene (LIG) into small, metal-free devices that generate electricity. Like rubbing a balloon on hair, putting LIG composites in contact with other surfaces produces static electricity that can be used to power devices.

Lab video demonstrates that repeatedly hitting a folded triboelectric generator produced enough energy to power a series of attached light-emitting diodes. The test showed how generators based on laser-induced graphene could be used to power wearable sensors and electronics with human movement. Courtesy of the Tour Group

For that, thank the triboelectric effect, by which materials gather a charge through contact. When they are put together and then pulled apart, surface charges build up that can be channeled toward power generation.

In experiments, the researchers connected a folded strip of LIG to a string of light-emitting diodes and found that tapping the strip produced enough energy to make them flash. A larger piece of LIG embedded within a flip-flop let a wearer generate energy with every step, as the graphene composite’s repeated contact with skin produced a current to charge a small capacitor.

“This could be a way to recharge small devices just by using the excess energy of heel strikes during walking, or swinging arm movements against the torso,” Tour said.

The project is detailed in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.

LIG is a graphene foam produced when chemicals are heated on the surface of a polymer or other material with a laser, leaving only interconnected flakes of two-dimensional carbon. The lab first made LIG on common polyimide, but extended the technique to plants, food, treated paper and wood.

The lab turned polyimide, cork and other materials into LIG electrodes to see how well they produced energy and stood up to wear and tear. They got the best results from materials on the opposite ends of the triboelectric series, which quantifies their ability to generate static charge by contact electrification.

In the folding configuration, LIG from the tribo-negative polyimide was sprayed with a protecting coating of polyurethane, which also served as a tribo-positive material. When the electrodes were brought together, electrons transferred to the polyimide from the polyurethane. Subsequent contact and separation drove charges that could be stored through an external circuit to rebalance the built-up static charge. The folding LIG generated about 1 kilovolt, and remained stable after 5,000 bending cycles.

The best configuration, with electrodes of the polyimide-LIG composite and aluminum, produced voltages above 3.5 kilovolts with a peak power of more than 8 milliwatts.

“The nanogenerator embedded within a flip-flop was able to store 0.22 millijoules of electrical energy on a capacitor after a 1-kilometer walk,” said Rice postdoctoral researcher Michael Stanford, lead author of the paper. “This rate of energy storage is enough to power wearable sensors and electronics with human movement.”

Learn more: Flexible generators turn movement into energy

 

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New nanogenerator creates electricity from snowfall

Abdelsalam Ahmed
Hiking shoe with device attached

The first-of-its-kind nanogenerator designed by UCLA researchers and colleagues also acts as a weather station

UCLA researchers and colleagues have designed a new device that creates electricity from falling snow. The first of its kind, this device is inexpensive, small, thin and flexible like a sheet of plastic.

“The device can work in remote areas because it provides its own power and does not need batteries,” said senior author Richard Kaner, who holds UCLA’s Dr. Myung Ki Hong Endowed Chair in Materials Innovation. “It’s a very clever device — a weather station that can tell you how much snow is falling, the direction the snow is falling, and the direction and speed of the wind.”

The researchers call it a snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, or snow TENG. A triboelectric nanogenerator, which generates charge through static electricity, produces energy from the exchange of electrons.

Findings about the device are published in the journal Nano Energy.

“Static electricity occurs from the interaction of one material that captures electrons and another that gives up electrons,” said Kaner, who is also a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering, and a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. “You separate the charges and create electricity out of essentially nothing.”

Snow is positively charged and gives up electrons. Silicone — a synthetic rubber-like material that is composed of silicon atoms and oxygen atoms, combined with carbon, hydrogen and other elements — is negatively charged. When falling snow contacts the surface of silicone, that produces a charge that the device captures, creating electricity.

“Snow is already charged, so we thought, why not bring another material with the opposite charge and extract the charge to create electricity?” said co-author Maher El-Kady, a UCLA assistant researcher of chemistry and biochemistry.

“While snow likes to give up electrons, the performance of the device depends on the efficiency of the other material at extracting these electrons,” he added. “After testing a large number of materials including aluminum foils and Teflon, we found that silicone produces more charge than any other material.”

About 30 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by snow each winter, during which time solar panels often fail to operate, El-Kady noted. The accumulation of snow reduces the amount of sunlight that reaches the solar array, limiting the panels’ power output and rendering them less effective. The new device could be integrated into solar panels to provide a continuous power supply when it snows, he said.

The device can be used for monitoring winter sports, such as skiing, to more precisely assess and improve an athlete’s performance when running, walking or jumping, Kaner said. It also has the potential for identifying the main movement patterns used in cross-country skiing, which cannot be detected with a smart watch.

It could usher in a new generation of self-powered wearable devices for tracking athletes and their performances.

It can also send signals, indicating whether a person is moving. It can tell when a person is walking, running, jumping or marching.

The research team used 3-D printing to design the device, which has a layer of silicone and an electrode to capture the charge. The team believes the device could be produced at low cost given “the ease of fabrication and the availability of silicone,” Kaner said. Silicone is widely used in industry, in products such as lubricants, electrical wire insulation and biomedical implants, and it now has the potential for energy harvesting.

Co-authors include Abdelsalam Ahmed, who conducted the research while completing his doctoral studies at the University of Toronto; Islam Hassan and Ravi Selvaganapathy of Canada’s McMaster University; and James Rusling of the University of Connecticut and his research team.

Kaner’s research was funded by Nanotech Energy, a company spun off from his research (Kaner is chair of its scientific advisory board and El-Kady is chief technology officer); and Kaner’s Dr. Myung Ki Hong Endowed Chair in Materials Innovation.

Kaner’s laboratory has produced numerous devices, including a membrane that separates oil from water and cleans up the debris left by oil fracking. Fracking is a technique to extract gas and oil from shale rock.

Kaner, El-Kady and colleagues designed a device in 2017 that can use solar energy to inexpensively and efficiently create and store energy, which could be used to power electronic devices and to create hydrogen fuel for eco-friendly cars. This year, they published research on their design of the first fire-retardant, self-extinguishing motion sensor and power generator, which could be embedded in shoes or clothing worn by firefighters and others who work in harsh environments.

Kaner is among the world’s most influential and highly cited scientific researchers. He was selected as the recipient of the American Institute of Chemists 2019 Chemical Pioneer Award, which honors chemists and chemical engineers who have made outstanding contributions that advance the science of chemistry or greatly impact the chemical profession.

Learn more: Best in snow: New scientific device creates electricity from snowfall

 

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Wearable technology can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy

A Purdue University team created wearable technology to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy.
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Wenzhuo Wu/Purdue University

Technology designed to advance self-powering devices such as consumer electronics and defense innovations

A fascination with movie technology that showed robots perform self-repair through a liquid formula inspired a Purdue University professor to make his own discoveries – which are now helping to lead the way for advancements in self-powering devices such as consumer electronics and defense innovations.

The Purdue team, led by Wenzhuo Wu, the Ravi and Eleanor Talwar Rising Star Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering, has created wearable technology to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy.

“Our work presents an important step toward the practical realization of self-powered, human-integrated technologies,” Wu said.

The Purdue team invented a liquid-metal-inclusion based triboelectric nanogenerator, called LMI-TENG. Triboelectric energy harvesting transducers – devices which help conserve mechanical energy and turn it into power – are predicted to be a $480 million market by 2028, according to IDTechEx.

The LMI-TENG can harvest and sense the biomechanical signals from the body and use those to help power and direct technological devices. The LMI-TENG consists of a layer of liquid metal embedded functional silicone sandwiched between two Ecoflex layers.

The Purdue technology is featured in the February edition of the Journal of Materials Chemistry A, which named it one of 2019’s HOT papers.

“We realized that liquid represents the ultimate form of anything that can be deformable and morphing into different shapes,” Wu said. “Our technology will enable wearable electronics to take otherwise wasted energy and transform it into energy that can power and control electronic devices and tools used in military defense and consumer applications. Our technology allows the synergistic engineering of TENG components at the material, structural and output levels.”

Wu said the Purdue technology has applications for many self-powered innovations for emerging technologies, such as wearable sensors, pervasive computing, advanced health care, human-machine interfaces, robotics, user interfaces, augmented reality, virtual reality, teleoperation and the Internet of Things.

Learn more: Movie technology inspires wearable liquid unit that aims to harvest energy

 

 

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A new way to power electrical devices with DC triboelectric nanogenerators

Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering professor Thomas Thundat, left, and PhD student Jun Liu have made a landmark discovery making huge improvements on the development of triboelectric nanogenerators. These devices could harvest mechanical energy such as vibrations or wind to power small electrical devices.

A team of University of Alberta engineers developed a new way to produce electrical power that can charge handheld devices or sensors that monitor anything from pipelines to medical implants.

The discovery sets a new world standard in devices called triboelectric nanogenerators by producing a high-density DC current—a vast improvement over low-quality AC currents produced by other research teams.

Jun Liu, a PhD student working under the supervision of chemical engineering professor Thomas Thundat, was conducting research unrelated to these tiny generators, using a device called an atomic force microscope. It provides images at the atomic level using a tiny cantilever to “feel” an object, the same way you might learn about an object by running a finger over it. Liu forgot to press a button that would apply electricity to the sample—but he still saw a current coming from the material.

“I didn’t know why I was seeing a current,” he recalled.

One theory was that it was an anomaly or a technical problem, or interference. But Liu wanted to get to the bottom of it. He eventually pinned the cause on the friction of the microscope’s probe on the material. It’s like shuffling across a carpet then touching someone and giving them a shock.

It turns out that the mechanical energy of the microscope’s cantilever moving across a surface can generate a flow of electricity. But instead of releasing all the energy in one burst, the U of A team generated a steady current.

“Many other researchers are trying to generate power at the prototype stages but their performances are limited by the current density they’re getting—that is the problem we solved,” said Liu.

“This is big,” said Thundat. “So far, what other teams have been able to do is to generate very high voltages, but not the current. What Jun has discovered is a new way to get continuous flow of high current.”

The discovery means that nanoscale generators have the potential to harvest power for electrical devices based on nanoscale movement and vibration: an engine, traffic on a roadway—even a heartbeat. It could lead to technology with applications in everything from sensors used to monitor the physical strength of structures such as bridges or pipelines, the performance of engines or wearable electronic devices.

Liu said the applications are limited only by imagination.

Learn more: Researchers discover new way to power electrical devices

 

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