Scientists from the University of Texas at Dallas and Hanyang University in South Korea have developed a special type of yarn that creates electricity as it is stretched or twisted.
Dr. Carter Haines, associate research professor in the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute at UT Dallas and co-lead author of the article, said: "The easiest way to think of twistron harvesters is, you have a piece of yarn, you stretch it, and out comes electricity."
Dr. Na Li, a research scientist at the NanoTech Institute and co-lead author of the study, added: "Fundamentally, these yarns are supercapacitors. In a normal capacitor, you use energy - like from a battery - to add charges to the capacitor. But in our case, when you insert the carbon nanotube yarn into an electrolyte bath, the yarns are charged by the electrolyte itself. No external battery, or voltage, is needed."
And Dr. Ray Baughman, director of the NanoTech Institute, shared: "Although numerous alternative harvesters have been investigated for many decades, no other reported harvester provides such high electrical power or energy output per cycle as ours for stretching rates between a few cycles per second and 600 cycles per second."
And there is hope this "wasted energy" could be used where battery changing is "impractical.
Li said: "There is a lot of interest in using waste energy to power the Internet of Things, such as arrays of distributed sensors. Twistron technology might be exploited for such applications where changing batteries is impractical."
With Baughman adding: "Electronic textiles are of major commercial interest, but how are you going to power them? Harvesting electrical energy from human motion is one strategy for eliminating the need for batteries. Our yarns produced over a hundred times higher electrical power per weight when stretched compared to other weavable fibers reported in the literature."