January 1, 1970 (Vol. , No. )

Kevin Ahern

Your notion of the high charges of the fashion industry is about to change. Dr. Zhong Lin Wang and colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta have developed novel fibers for use in clothing that, when mechanical stress, such as bending or stretching is applied to them, produces a voltage. According to their paper in the February 13 online edition of Nature, the secret resides in two intertwined fibers containing zinc oxide, which acts piezoelectrically. One of the fibers contains a thin layer of gold. When the non-coated fibers brush against the coated fibers, a charge is produced and it can be captured in a battery or, alternatively, used to power a device, such as a light bulb. A square meter of the material could produce about 50 milliwatts of power just from the wearer taking a walk. Applications of the technology are virtually unlimited. Researchers envision the currents may be useful for powering pacemakers or other medical, radio equipment, and might even be useful for harnessing wind energy. Tents, for example, could be made from the material and provide electricity during a camping trips just by stretches and bends produced by the wind blowing across them. It may also prove useful to soldiers in the field.

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