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Clothing Fabric Could Contain Gadget Batteries

Researchers have built a battery from a conductive, nickel-coated polyester fabric, so that your phone battery could be sewn into your shirt. Christopher Intagliata reports

More than half of all Americans carry smartphones. Smartwatches and smartglasses may not be far behind. What's not all that smart are the rigid batteries that power our gadgets. But some may soon be replaced by ultra-thin, flexible batteries, sewn right into your clothes.

Researchers built a prototype out of conductive, nickel-coated polyester fabric. They applied lithium compounds to create the anode and cathode, and separated them with a spandex-like material. The finished battery was just half a millimeter thick, with a capacity of 510 milliampere-hours per cubic inch—about a quarter that of the battery in an iPhone 5. And the tighter the knit, the higher the capacity.

Of course, fabric wrinkles. But this battery can too. Even after being folded 5,500 times, the battery kept trucking. Thin foil batteries, on the other hand, took just 70 folds to become really foiled. The findings appear in the journal Nano Letters. [Yong-Hee Lee et al., Wearable Textile Battery Rechargeable by Solar Energy]

You don't even have to disrobe to charge this wearable battery. Researchers tacked flexible solar cells to it, so it can charge on the go. Might be just the thing to make polyester current again.

—Christopher Intagliata

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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