What if your clothes could harvest energy to power your smartphone? Eight Georgia Tech engineers pioneered a new type of hybrid textile that can harvest energy from two sources: the sun and movement. There could be several applications for the innovative fabric, including in clothing, curtains, or tents.

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The engineers utilized a “commercial textile machine” to weave the “hybrid power textile” or “hybrid energy fabric.” The fabric can harvest solar energy through solar cells made of polymer fibers. Triboelectric nanogenerators generate energy from movement. These materials are interwoven with wool. The resulting fabric is “highly flexible,” lightweight, and breathable, according to researchers. The journal Nature Energy published their research online earlier this week.

Related: Never do laundry again: researchers create self-cleaning textiles!

Paper co-author and Georgia Tech professor in Materials Science and Engineering Zhong Lin Wang said in a statement, “This hybrid power textile presents a novel solution to charging devices in the field from something as simple as the wind blowing on a sunny day.”

To test the fabric, the engineers essentially created a flag with it and then drove around in a car as the flag blew in the wind out the window. Although the day was cloudy, a four by five centimeter piece of the fabric gathered enough energy to charge a “2 mF commerical capacitor” to two volts in just one minute.

Next the engineers plan to encapsulate the fabric so it’s not harmed by moisture or rain. Early tests show the fabric can be used over and over, but the researchers want to test it further to see just how durable it might be over long periods of time. They think the fabric could be scaled up, as many of the materials used are inexpensive. The polymer fibers utilized are also “environmentally friendly.”

+ Georgia Tech

Images via Georgia Tech