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Flexible piezoelectric fibres generate 2x power output

Posted: 19 Feb 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:piezoelectric  energy  textile  power 

A research at the University of Bolton has borne 3D textile structures using piezoelectric energy harvesting fibres, allowing energy harnessing carpets or mobile devices to be charged at motion. It further claims to deliver twice the power output of current energy harvesting textiles.

Led by Professor Elias Siores, the research demonstrated the development of continuous piezoelectric fibres that display high flexibility and high mechanical strength. The fibre is woven into intricate and complex structures, such as 3D spacer textiles, paving the way for commercial applications.

"We believe that this is just the first step in the creation of true wearable energy harvesting structures which do not look and feel any different from the conventional fabrics and yet provide the highest level of functionality," said University of Bolton's Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry post-doctoral research fellow and co-author of the paper, Dr. Navneet Soin.

Flexible piezoelectric fibres generate 2x power output

Figure 1: 3D textile structure with the PVDF molecule.

The use of 3D textile structures has been around for decades in applications such as medical textiles and highly breathable sportswear but Dr. Soin believes there have been no reports of the use of 3D textiles for piezoelectric energy harvesting.

Flexible piezoelectric fibres can generate electricity by harnessing the energy created by an impact or movement, for example a footstep on a carpet, then converting that mechanical energy into electrical power.

"The next step of the project is to focus on a couple of core applications and develop it from there. We envisage that with continued development in the area, we could be looking at actual commercial harvesters based on this technology in the next four to five years," explained Dr. Soin.

The fibres can be knitted together to form a 3D fabric composed of two separate conducting, silver-coated polyamide textile faces (the electrodes) joined together by a poly (vinylidene fluoride) spacer yarn (the piezoelectric component). Compression of the fabric causes the spacer yarn to generate a charge that is collected by the two metallic faces. The melt spinning process used to generate the fibres is much faster than traditional electrospinning and a higher throughput can therefore be achieved. A range of 1 μW/cm2 to 5μW/cm2 of power can be generated, enough to power a small sensor.

The research work is a collaboration between the University's Institute of Materials Research and Innovation and Institute for Renewable Energy and Environmental Technologies, both world renowned research centres. The fibre and 3D structure developed will be taken to market by FibrLec, a new sustainable energy company working with the University to commercialise its innovative smart materials in renewable energy applications.

The research has been published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, in the academic journal, Energy and Environmental Science.

- Paul Buckley
  EE Times Europe





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