Saturday, May 22, 2010

One day your pants may power up your iPod

Nanotechnology is set to change the world we live in.

Researchers at UC Berkeley are perfecting microscopic fibers that can produce electricity from simple body motions such as bending, stretching and twisting. The filaments, which resemble tiny fishing lines, may soon be woven into clothing and sold as the ultimate portable generators.

It could take three years or more before it hits the store shelves, but the technology is already being hailed as a breakthrough.

The so-called nanofibers "will have very significant implications," said Mihail Roco, senior advisor for nanotechnology with the National Science Foundation, which recently gave a $350,000 grant to the project.

In addition to helping reduce electricity demands on local utilities, new industries could spring up to manufacture the tiny personal generators, he said.

Researchers are envisioning hikers powering up their digital cameras while trekking up a mountain or a jogger charging up her cellphone in mid-run.

The Pentagon is hot for it too: Soldiers would no longer have to carry heavy batteries to power their gear. Along with the National Science Foundation, the Pentagon's secretive advanced research agency is helping fund the project.

At rival Stanford University, researchers are developing fabric-based batteries, or eTextiles, that could potentially store the energy produced at UC Berkeley.

Ordinary cloth becomes rechargeable batteries and capacitors when immersed in a special ink formula and then oven-dried. A piece weighing about an ounce can retain up to three times the amount of energy that a cellphone battery can, while remaining lightweight and flexible.
Read LA Times article here.

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