Researchers at the University of Texas, Dallas have created a power-generating yarn from woven carbon nanotubes, and known as Twistron.
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These devices generate power when stretched or compressed. But this twistron yarn is strong, flexible and acts as a supercapacitor. plenty of piezoelectric materials generate power. The ultra-thin carbon nanotubes compose them and twisted and coiled to provide the stretch, conductivity and other desirable qualities.
Electronic textiles are of major commercial interest, but how are you going to power. Harvesting electrical energy from human motion is one strategy. These yarns produced over a hundred times higher electrical power per weight when stretched compared to other weavable fibers reported in the literature.”
The twistron needs to be soaked in electrolytes to work. To test that type of twistron, the researchers wove the yarns into a shirt, and it generated small but usable amounts of electricity just from the wearer’s respiration. For low-power devices woven in, wireless transceiver that only needs to send out a burst every few minutes, this trickle of power would be more than enough.
Tested was motion in the ocean. One of the lead authors, Shi Hyeong Kim, attached a balloon to a weight with twistron yarn. Deposited it in the salty surf of South Korea himself. Wave action caused the line to move and stretch generating electricity. Easily scaled, and unique and easily customized way to pull power from the sea.
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The team has patented the tech and is looking into applications, but as with most cool technologies like this, it’ll be a while before we see it in action. In the meantime, feel free to browse the NanoTech Institute’s other fascinating projects here.