Photo: Courtesy Wake Forest University
A team at Wake Forest University has created an amazing new fabric that generates electricity from the warmth of body heat. The team, led by scientist David Carroll, announced the innovation called Power Felt in February, and we could see it hit stores in the next couple of years.
Carroll, a physicist, talked to us about how he’s been working around the clock to develop the material for more than two years.
“We wanted to create something that was thin and inexpensive, like fabric,” Carroll said in a phone interview. “The idea is to make something that isn’t intrusive and just gives people an extra boost.”
Carroll’s invention is revolutionary because it is cheap enough to make mass production feasible.
The team was faced with the challenge of creating something that was both thermal, holding heat in, and conducive, allowing electricity to pass through it. They ended up putting carbon nanotubes inside of a plastic mat of fabrics, an inexpensive solution built to last for years.
Carroll said that the fabric could be used to charge a cell phone. It could also be placed as insulation in a house and it could run appliances. If placed inside a car, it could run the radio and air conditioner.
Power Felt could also alleviate emergencies by providing a reliable power source that wouldn’t go out, Carroll said.
“It’s reasonable and something that would be easy for people to include in their lives,” Carroll said. “I think that’s what really sets it apart from other innovations.”
Carroll and his team are the first to come up with an inexpensive product in the field of thermoelectronics. And while their fabric produces less electricity than other products, it can be layered to create as much and still costs much less.
And companies have taken note, Carroll told us. He’s talked to investors about the product and is confident it could hit the consumer radar in the next few years.
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