Researchers Develop Electricity-Conducting Yarn for Smart Clothing
Dr. Javad Foroughi and Professor Gordon Wallace of the University of Wollongong in Australia inspect nanostructured fibres produced at the university using knitting and braiding machines. The fibers create a strong and flexible yarn that can store and conduct electricity and be used to create wearable electronics and smart clothing. (Source: University of Wollongong)
The idea of storing energy in clothes is innovative, but before you apply it on a larger scale you should get an idea about how many people will wear the clothing. A good design will go a long way, this is what makes the items on http://www.khwanpants.com/pants so popular, you could learn a lot from them.
I completely understand you, William K, and you're absolutely right. I have been covering so many of these technologies from the lab perspective, I don't often see what happens after that. It would be good if the more useful ones made it to the commercial space, but that's not always the case for logistical or functional reasons, as you point out.
Elizabeth, "Wait and see" sounds so very pesemistic, which I am not. BUT we have seen a whole lot of announcements of various "wonderful" discoveries and then we hear nothing more about them. So really, there is a huge gap between a discovery or invention and a commercial product, completely aside from the normal perils that all startups face. Little chunks of reality that get ignored in the press release but that wind up being huge barriers to anything that is repeatedly functional. That sort of challenge. Or like the very interesting discovery that I sort of deflated when I worked at Methode. One missing ground connection and sound was propagating at the speed of light. Except that it wasn't. That was published in a "tales from the cube" a while back. After that, I would routinely do reality checks during my research experiments, just to verify that I had not had a similar failure. Far better to find an erorr than before publishing a report than to have somebody else find it and publish their findings.
This is a bit confusing because the yarn is described as a conductor, a capacitor, and as a energy scavenging material, a power generator. Then the description of the production process seems a bit more like an ultracapacitor. But a fabric that generates elecrtical power when it is flexed or stretched is certainly an interesting thing, and quite likely has all kinds of applcations waiting in the future, when it is available in commercial quantities at reasonable prices. That does seem to be the barrier to a lot of wonderful ideas, which is that they never get to the point of producing an adequate production yield at a reasonable price. So we will need to wait for the announcement that this invention has made it out of the lab and into production.
A lot of interesting questions have been raised in other comments. Longevity and functionality in water (washing or otherwise) are big unknowns. As the cost and size of sensors come down the impact to the fitness market alone could be astonishing. Hopefully the final product feels no stranger than today's performance/wicking materials.
Yes, it's amazing, Al, but I think that more may make an impact than we think in this case. Energy harvesting, because it's so simple in concept, I think had the potential to make an impact more than other technology areas, in my opinion. So even though it's true that so many technologies that are researched and developed don't make it out of the lab, I think energy harvesters will have a bit of a bigger real-world play. I guess we will see!
It's amazing the number of energy harvesting technologies that are emerging. Many will probably never make an impact but the promise of energy harvesting is certainly a powerful lure that will keep new ideas and hopefully some significant successes.
Highly regarded engineer and physicist Ransom Stephens speaks with Design News about his extensive science and engineering background, the serious yet funny study of neuroscience, and how one primes their brain for innovation.
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