Some people may consider mobile phones to be as important as fashion accessories as they are they are as communications devices, but scientists at the University of South Carolina have gone one bar further by blurring the line between style and technology in a potentially revolutionary manner.
Mechanical Professor Xiaodong Li and post-doctoral researcher Lihong Bao (above) have developed a way to store electrical power in a plain T-shirt, in a discovery that could be the trigger to the development of clothing articles imbued with the ability to charge mobile devices - or activated carbon textiles according to their published findings.
Professor Li said that the discoveries made by his team could be vital to the success of products that may appear on the consumer market in the future.
"We will soon see roll-up cell phones and laptop computers on the market. But a flexible energy storage device is needed to make this possible," he ventured.
Using a cheap tee obtained from a local budget outlet, Li and Bao soaked the fabric in a fluoride solution, dried it out, and then cooked it in an oxygen-free oven at a high temperature.
Subsequent infrared spectroscopy showed that the surfaces of the fibres in the fabric had been converted from cellulose to activated carbon while still maintaining the flexibility necessary to make them viable as clothing.
Using small swatches of the fabric as an electrode, the research team then demonstrated that the tweaked material was capable of acting as a capacitor – a component with the ability to store the juice that runs virtually all electronic devices on the market.
The team concluded that further optimisation of the capacitor to improve its energy storage capability – in essence, the creation of a hybrid supercapacitor – would make it possible to charge devices through the T-shirt.
"We wear fabric every day. One day our cotton T-shirts could have more functions; for example, a flexible energy storage device that could charge your cell phone or your iPad," he concluded, adding that the methods used by his team were environmentally-friendly.
The latest discovery by the US-based scientists comes on the back of some other highly novel innovations. Recently, Japanese scientists put forth that they had created the world's thinnest display screen to date when they succeeded in beaming and manipulating images on to a soap bubble.
Vodafone is getting in on the act as well, pioneering an umbrella with the ability to improve signal strength and charge devices - a product that may be available to the public by the end of the summer.
Source and image credit: University of South Carolina