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Supercapacitor Used for Smart Clothing

Posted: 04/23/2016 06:04:23 Edited: 04/23/2016 06:04:23Clicks: 2173

Wearable devices are now very popular. Besides smart watches, smart bracelets and other common wearable devices, smart clothing also exists. Compared with smart watches and bracelets, smart clothing is closer to body and has wider coverage area on body. In terms of physical detection, smart clothing has higher precision than bracelets. However, smart clothing should be energized if it can detect. Smart clothing on current market still need extra power units (like solid cell) to supply power. The power units cannot only be cumbersome, but also decrease comfort. 
Recently, Drexel University cooperates with United States Naval Academy for a research project. They find a method that active carbon granules can be implanted into different types of woolen yarns for storing energy and triggering sensors and electronic integration devices. Then, the knitted products are modified into smart clothing.
Smart fabrics consisting of different types of sensing components, have already been developed for more than 10 years. However, those products are only exhibits in laboratory. They begin to enter into consumer market in recent years, just as wearable device which can monitor physical status of athletes and tracing health and psychosomatic condition. Report launched by Gartner at the end of 2014 pointed that the market of smart clothing would be increased from a hundred thousand in 2014 to 26 million in 2016.
Until now, most of products on market use extra processing units to capture data, and connect with smart cellphone, tablet computer and other portable devices. Although those units have small modules, they still need traditional batteries for power supply. In the aspect of aesthetics or functions, the design is actually far away from ideal.
So, creating an energy reservoir having high elasticity which can be integrated into knitted products is always an objective for relevant researchers. Last year, research teams from China and the U.S. showed some results. They respectively showed the fiber supercapacitor made of graphite and carbon nano tube which could be knitted into clothing. At that time, a report pointed out that every fiber on micro supercapacitor using carbon as base had the highest volume energy density. However, the cost of those products was quite high though they seemed to be powerful. Moreover, the doubt that carbon nano tube may contain toxicity was still not eliminated, reducing commercial value of products further.
For inventing energy storage device having low cost without extra device, team from Drexel University begins to use active carbon having low price. Beside low cost, active carbon is safe and non-toxic, which is commonly used to weaken absorption of toxic substances. Yury Gogotsi, the materials scientist of Drexel University explains that only use an area about 3,000 square centimeters (equivalent to central blocks in the back of shirt) can store electric power of coin battery having an area of 4 square centimeters. 
For such energy density, the team used a technology called as NFW (Natural Fiber Welding). The technology is invented by Paul C. Trulove, chemistry professor of United States Naval Academy and Hugh C.Delong from Scientific Research Department of Air Force Office. NFW can make materials such as active carbon be implanted into gauzes or textures made of cotton, hemp, bamboo or rayon. 
NFW technology is complicated. With the efforts of team from Drexel University and United States Naval Academy, a machine only used for NFW was invented, which could constantly produce tens of meters gauzes. “The real cost is originated from ionic liquids required by NFW. Although the liquids are expensive, the liquids are excellent organic solvent, because they cannot be volatilized and event can be rebuilt in water and recycled.” David P. Durkin, the General Commander of United States Naval Academy. Durkin considers that if NFW technology is scaled, the cost of ionic liquids is a key factor. 
Under current technology, energy storing textiles can only supply less electricity which may not be applied in portable products such as smart cellphone. However, other applications can benefit from the textiles. Kristy Jost, doctoral student of Drexel University explains that there are more and more electric textiles on market. But most of products still need solid batteries for supplying power. For this, she devotes herself to research and development of energy storing textiles. The final objective is to invent a kind of energy storing devices, which can drive relevant electronic products such as knitted sensors or underpower communication devices.
Smart clothing cannot be put one, but also can provide more precise physiological numerical. For entertainment, models or artists also can wear smart clothing, showing more beautiful effects and increasing entertaining effects.
Supercapacitor Used for Smart Clothing