BusinessWeek has the story of a new fabric being developed at Wake Forest’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, which promises to generate electricity from heat. Dubbed Power Felt, this new fabric would make currently performance fabrics look downright pedestrian. The idea is that you could wrap your cell phone with this fabric and recharge it from the heat in your pocket. Take it a step further by lining the roof of your home, and you could likely power some, if not all, of your appliances from the hot attic space. Port this tech to the automotive world, and you can power your vehicle’s electronics from the heat of the engine.
David Carroll, the head of the team the created the fabric, said the main challenge was to make something that was both conductive and insulating. The solution was to imprint carbon nanotubes onto a woven mat of plastic fibers. Since it takes a relative few nanotubes to get the desired thermoelectric properties, the costs of production can be kept low. Low, as in $1 for enough to cover your cell phone.
Carroll is currently in talks with multiple investors to get this fabric to market. If it delivers what it promises, this could be yet another item to ease your power company bill. I can’t imagine that this could be a wholesale replacement for said power company — especially since it gets cold when the sun goes down — but for powering your gadgets and toys on the run, this could be the solution to a dead battery at the most inconvenient of times. And who hasn’t run out of battery when you just had to check your favorite social media app?