Stretchable Fabric Powers Gadgets With Sweat

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©. Binghampton University

There has been a lot of advancement in performance fabrics over the last decade. Exercise clothing is made to move with us, help moderate our temperatures and wick away sweat to keep us comfortable. Researchers at Binghampton University have developed a fabric that could fit those needs, but it would also do something with the sweat it absorbs -- generate electricity.

Well, it's not the sweat exactly so much as the bacteria in the sweat. The novel fabric works as a microbial fuel cell and stores the energy it makes like a biobattery.

The fabric is flexible and stretchable which would make it suitable for athletic wear or even just everyday clothing. In testing, it has proven stable through repeated stretching and twisting cycles.

“There is a clear and pressing need for flexible and stretchable electronics that can be easily integrated with a wide range of surroundings to collect real-time information,” said Professor Seokheun Choi.

“If we consider that humans possess more bacterial cells than human cells in their bodies, the direct use of bacterial cells as a power resource interdependently with the human body is conceivable for wearable electronics."

The use of the fabric in clothing would mean a constant source of energy for wearable electronics from smartwatches to a wide range of medical monitoring devices. It's ability to run off bacteria, which is so abundant in our world, also means it could be used in other applications that required a flexible renewable energy source.

We've written about Choi's work before. He and his team are also responsible for paper origami batteries that run on the bacteria in dirty water as well as other unique uses of microbial fuel cell technology.