A bendable, thread-like battery could power next-generation wearables — and you can sew it into an item of clothing like any other piece of embroidery.
One use for the battery system, which is the brainchild of University of Massachusetts Amherst chemist Trisha Andrew: giving people with diabetes a discreet way to power devices that monitor blood sugar levels.
In research published last month in the journal ACS: Applied Materials & Interfaces, the system stored and transferred an electrical charge just as well when crumpled, bent, and rolled up as it did when laid flat.
That demonstrates that the system can be sewn into clothes and survive the usual wear and tear of everyday life, hopefully granting a greater degree of autonomy and freedom to people who might normally need to be cautious with larger battery packs.
But like all of the other cool developments in garments that store or generate power, this system hasn’t hit the market. Rather, last month’s research is still at the proof-of-concept stage. We know it works conceptually, but that’s about it.
Thankfully, according to a 2017 study Andrew conducted, these textile battery systems can survive laundering and ironing. If it needed to be threaded in and out of a shirt each time people need to run a load of whites, it probably wouldn’t be worth the hassle.
[Editor’s Note: November 12, 2018 10:30 AM: This article has been updated to include research showing that the battery device could withstand laundering and ironing.]
READ MORE: UMass Amherst Materials Scientists Create Fabric Alternative to Batteries for Wearable Devices [UMass Amherst News & Media Relations]
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