A lightweight, comfortable jacket that can generate the power to light up a jogger at night may sound futuristic, but a materials scientist could make one today. In a new paper, she and colleagues outline a way to apply breathable, pliable, metal-free electrodes to fabric and off-the-shelf clothing so it feels good to the touch and also transports enough electricity to power small electronics.
Generating small electric currents through relative movement of layers is called triboelectric charging, explains Andrew, who trained as a polymer chemist and electrical engineer. Materials can become electrically charged as they create friction by moving against a different material, like rubbing a comb on a sweater. “By sandwiching layers of differently materials between two conducting electrodes, a few microwatts of power can be generated when we move,” they said.