Jul 12, 2012 08:50 AM EDT
USC Researchers Use cotton t-shirts to Store Electric Charge
In the era of technology, new inventions are being done almost every day. With the popular mobile brands working towards enhancing their products with better options, the researchers at the University of South Carolina are thinking ahead of time and are working currently on how to integrate gadgets with our wardrobe.
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Xiaodong Li, a professor of mechanical engineering and his colleague Lihong Bao, a post-doctoral associate at USC are working towards turning a cotton t-shirt into a source of electrical power.
"We wear fabric every day," said Li, at USC. "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 said.
The researchers believe that cotton t-shirts can act as a capacitor, which can store electric charge after converting them to activated carbon textile.
How did the researchers convert it into activated carbontextiles (ACTs)? They followed an inexpensive, green process using fluoride solution unlike previous methods wherein they used unfriendly chemicals.
The scientists bought cotton t-shirts and soaked it in the fluoride solution and dried it before baking it at a high temperature in an oven. To avoid the t-shirt from getting burned, they removed oxygen from the oven.
The fiber in the t-shirt was converted into an ACT for energy-storage applications without losing its flexibility. The conversion helps the ACT to get an electrical double-layer capacitive behavior that can store electric charge.
The researchers believe these flexible ACTs can help serve the future market which will see roll-up cell phones. "We will soon see roll-up cell phones and laptop computers on the market," Li said. "But a flexible energy storage device is needed to make this possible."
To improve the effect of the storage capacity, Li and his colleague coated fiber on the fabric with "nanoflowers" of manganese oxide, which increased the electrode performance of the fabric. They found that the supercapacitors constructed based on the ACT and the manganese oxide had much better energy storage capability than the ACT alone.
The study is published in the journal Advanced Materials.