Why Twistron could revolutionize the wearable market

A nano-solution to power future wearables

in brief

A team of American and Korean scientific researchers unveiled in late August an innovative yarn baptized Twistron, a super material that may reshape our relationship to wearable garments, freeing them from the need for batteries. Teasing a desirable future, twistron can also become a potential way of creating and consuming cleaner energy, through its many applications on the wearable market and key industries (energy, health,…).

While nobody can deny the public’s desire for wearable garments, a major hurdle remains : batteries.

But the standard, cumbersome energy boxes could soon be replaced by a new material introduced in late August in Science and created by researchers from the University of Texas (Dallas) : Twistron yarn.

Made of conductive carbon nanotubes, sort of flexible and hollow cylinders 10 000 times thinner than human hair, Twistron is an innovative yarn able to generate and harvest electrical energy. Thanks to the twisting nature of the nanotubes, directly integrated in clothes, Twistron may not only enable smart clothes to free themselves from batteries, but also reduce their environmental footprint. Through its twisting and coiling abilities, the super material converts mechanical movements (combining potential and kinetic energies) and could provide futur connected garments with the desired optimal energy surplus needed nowadays. 

“Harvesting electrical energy from human motion is one strategy for eliminating the need for batteries. Our yarns produced over a hundred times higher electrical power per weight when stretched compared to other weavable fibers reported in the literature.” Ray Baughman, head UT Dallas’s NanoTech Institute.

In order to test its efficiency in real life, the scientific team first wove and integrated Twistron to a T-shirt, thus generating small amounts of electric energy from the wearers’s respiration, but still, to a sufficient level in order to provide low-power devices (like wireless transceivers that gather health data from its wearer). Another test (made by one of the project’s lead authors and scientists, Shi Hyeong Kim), destined to bring it further, implied to use wave actions. With the help of a balloon attached to a weigh with Twistron yarn, the experiment could be transposed to sea waters of the South Korean coast. Moved by wave action, the line then moved and stretched to generate electricity, making the innovative material potentially easy to scale, especially in other fields, thus offering an alternative usage of the yarn that could provide clean energy in an easier way.

« If our twistron harvesters could be made less expensively, they might ultimately be able to harvest the enormous amount of energy available from ocean waves » Ray Baughman, head UT Dallas’s NanoTech Institute.

However, Twistron doesn’t have the ability to sustain our daily usage of tech devices yet. Indeed, the yarn still faces impediments : for instance, in order to maximize its usage, the yarn needs to be soaked in electrolytes to work, a conductive found in natural sweat. To solve this issue, Twistron was encapsulated in a solid-state electrolyte (a sort of salty polymer), thus allowing it to generate power without being bathed in electrolytes.

Meanwhile, until the innovation hits the wearable’s market and galvanize it, the scientific team behind the breakthrough focuses on its practical applications in the medical industry. A period of time that allows other similar technologies like piezoelectricity and triboelectric charging to be brought to light.

In the meantime, follow this link to browse other interesting projects of the NanoTech Institute.

This post was written in partnership with DEFI France, as part of its support to innovation and fashion companies.

 

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