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How This Yarn Converts Movement Into Electricity When Stretched

By Brian Spaen

While batteries and superconductors are trying to improve wearable technology, imagine if the clothing we wore could power these gadgets? To begin with, when we move around, we’re already creating kinetic energy. Although, of course, it’s been hard to transfer that into something useful; until now. Scientists from the University of Texas at Dallas have been developing a yarn that’s created from carbon nanotubes, which may be able to generate electricity simply from being stretched.

In order to create this process, the yarn is twisted into elastic coils, which are called twistron harvesters. When stretched out, they’re able to generate electricity. With the addition of carbon nanotubes, these are able to store that energy and could fuel wearable gear. For example, these products could be smartwatches, activity trackers, or wearable cameras.

This new process has been a long time coming for Ray Baughman, a researcher from the university that’s been working on transferring kinetic energy to usable electricity since 1980. “We figured out that if you can use electrical energy to drive an artificial muscle to produce mechanical energy, maybe it’s possible to run it in reverse — and harvest mechanical energy as electricity,” Baughman told Digital Trends. “For all the years since then, I’ve failed to make this work. Now that’s changed.”