If you’re the guy (or gal) at the gym who’s leaving pools of sweat on the treadmill, it might actually start working to your advantage. The researchers at the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University have created Power Felt, a wearable material that generates electrical currents from temperature currents, specifically body heat.
The material is made of carbon nanotubes locked in flexible plastic fibers, which are woven together into a material that feels like felt. The material produces an electrical current by reacting to temperature gradients.
The material could conceivably be used under roof tiles, around insulating pipes, or even as a sexy pair of felt shorts to wear to the gym while you’re getting all hot and sweaty, and leaving your phone in the pocket to charge. Gym clothes could really use more felt.
While the fabric is fully functioning, about 72 stacked swatches of the fabric create about 140 nanowatts of power. If that’s as meaningless to you as it is to me, it’s about a millionth of the power an iPhone uses while sitting idle. In other words, you’re going to need some very thick felt gym shorts in order to actually make it worth your time.
“I imagine being able to make a jacket with a completely thermoelectric inside liner that gathers warmth from body heat, while the exterior remains cold from the outside temperature,” says researcher Corey Hewitt. “If the power felt is efficient enough, you could potentially power an iPod, which would be great for distance runners. It’s definitely within reach.”
That’s far more of an attainable goal than roof tiles or building space elevators, but there’s still plenty of fine-tuning that needs to happen in order to get the fabric on the market and into our clothing. Either way, it’s a step in the right direction for more alternative power sources.
Would you wear a fabric that charges your electronics?