Stretchable fabrics power integrated sensors and wearables


Last decade saw an evolution of fabrics to suit the body temperature`s rise under exercising. The effect is to help regulate temperature and disseminate sweating thus providing extra comfort.

Enhanced durable fabrics to power electronic wearables

Just recently researchers at the University of Binghampton, NY.  looked into enhancing the basic features of stretchable fabrics to generate electricity, and in so doing turning it into “foreseeable wearable electronics”.  The inner working of this capability is through energy storing bacteria in the human sweat evenly distributed by the fabrics, thus constituting a microbial fuel cell or biobattery.

This biobattery would run wearable electronics such as smartwatches, plus an array of medical sensors with which to monitor different body conditions such as temperature, pulse, etc., as some of the most important applications.

According to Professor Seokheun Choi. “If we consider that humans possess more bacterial cells than human cells in their bodies, the direct use of bacterial cells as a power resource interdependently with the human body is conceivable for wearable electronics.”  As an advocate of the microbial fuel cell, Professor Choi and his team have also researched on other types of microbial fuel cell technology, including paper origami batteries.

Integrated electronics may monitor body functions

He added, “There is a clear and pressing need for flexible and stretchable electronics that can be easily integrated with a wide range of surroundings to collect real-time information,” and, “Those electronics must perform reliably even while intimately used on substrates with complex and curvilinear shapes, like moving body parts or organs. We considered a flexible, stretchable, miniaturized biobattery as a truly useful energy technology because of their sustainable, renewable and eco-friendly capabilities.”

This new biological power source, however, is designed to last. Instead of using paper as a substrate, it is embedded in an elastic fabric that can be stretched and twisted. In fact, according to Choi, the technology “exhibits stable electricity-generating capability when tested under repeated stretching and twisting cycles,” which makes it ideal to be embedded in any kind of clothing, including sports gear.

Originally, this work entitled  “Flexible and Stretchable Biobatteries: Monolithic Integration of Membrane-Free Microbial Fuel Cells in a Single Textile Layer,” was published in Advanced Energy Materials, which is an international, interdisciplinary, English-language forum of original peer-reviewed contributions on materials used in all forms of energy harvesting, conversion, and storage.

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