Researchers create washable and wearable batteries for fabrics

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and colleagues from Jiangnan University in China have developed electronic components that can be directly incorporated into fabrics that could be used for flexible circuits, healthcare monitoring, energy conversion, and other applications. The researchers have shown how graphene and related materials can be directly incorporated into fabrics to produce charge storage elements like capacitors.

The scientists say their development paves the way to a textile-based power supply that is washable, flexible, and comfortable to wear. The textile electronic devices are based on low-cost, sustainable, and scalable dyeing of polyester fabric. The inks used for printing are made using standard solution processing techniques.

The technique that the team has devised allows various types of electronic components to be incorporated into the fabric. Other wearable electronics rely on rigid electronic components mounting on plastic or textiles. The team created their process by suspending individual graphene sheets in a low boiling point solvent that is easily removed after deposition on the fabric.

The result is a thin and uniform conducting network made of multiple graphene sheets. Overlaying several graphene and hexagonal boron nitride fabrics create an active region that can store a charge. The work paves the way for all sorts of commercial opportunities like personal health and well-being technology, wearable energy, data storage, military garments, wearable computing, and fashion.

The researchers offer no indication of when commercial products using the technology might be available. They also give no indication of exactly how much power the garments made using their process can hold. The tech could one-day mean you recharge your iPhone from your shirt.