A big part of going green has to do with capturing what would otherwise be wasted. That’s why they say coffee grounds can make good fertilizer, or even green lego blocks, and that’s where the idea for regenerative braking in hybrid electric cars came into the picture. But what about you as a human being? What wasted energy could be recaptured from you?
Wake Forest University researchers from the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials have come up with a fabric that they call Power Felt. The unique thing here is that it can convert temperature differences into usable electric current. What they’ve done is taken carbon nanotubes and locked them up in flexible plastic fibers. After weaving those fibers together, the resulting fabric can react to temperature gradients.
So, as an example, if you were to weave these into a pair of shorts or a t-shirt, the fabric could react to the difference in temperature from your body (warm) and from the outside air (cool), generating a current to charge up your iPhone, iPod, or whatever else. The researchers envision this being used with insulating pipes, roof tiles, car seats, and so on.
The hurdle is that the current version of this tech only yeilds 140 nanowatts of power from 72 stacked swatches of the thin material. That’s one millionth of the power that your iPhone needs when it’s idle. They’ll need to seriously ramp up the efficiency, but this is looking like a very promising development.