Micro-cable structured textile for simultaneously harvesting solar and mechanical energy

Jun Chen, Yi Huang, Nannan Zhang, Haiyang Zou, Ruiyuan Liu, Changyuan Tao, Xing Fan, Zhong Lin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

881 Scopus citations


Developing lightweight, flexible, foldable and sustainable power sources with simple transport and storage remains a challenge and an urgent need for the advancement of next-generation wearable electronics. Here, we report a micro-cable power textile for simultaneously harvesting energy from ambient sunshine and mechanical movement. Solar cells fabricated from lightweight polymer fibres into micro cables are then woven via a shuttle-flying process with fibre-based triboelectric nanogenerators to create a smart fabric. A single layer of such fabric is 320 μm thick and can be integrated into various cloths, curtains, tents and so on. This hybrid power textile, fabricated with a size of 4 cm by 5 cm, was demonstrated to charge a 2 mF commercial capacitor up to 2 V in 1 min under ambient sunlight in the presence of mechanical excitation, such as human motion and wind blowing. The textile could continuously power an electronic watch, directly charge a cell phone and drive water splitting reactions. In light of concerns about global warming and energy crises, searching for renewable energy resources that are not detrimental to the environment is one of the most urgent challenges to the sustainable development of human civilization1,2,3. Generating electricity from natural forces provides a superior solution to alleviate expanding energy needs on a sustainable basis4,5,6,7,8,9. With the rapid advancement of modern technologies, developing lightweight, flexible, sustainable and stable power sources remains both highly desirable and a challenge10,11,12,13,14,15,16. Solar irradiance and mechanical motion are clean and renewable energy sources17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24. Fabric-based materials are most common for humans and fibre-based textiles can effectively accommodate the complex deformations induced by body motion25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32. A smart textile that generates electrical power from absorbed solar irradiance and mechanical motion could be an important step towards next-generation wearable electronics. Here, we present a foldable and sustainable power source by fabricating an all-solid hybrid power textile with economically viable materials and scalable fabrication technologies. Based on lightweight and low-cost polymer fibres, the reported hybrid power textile introduces a new module fabrication strategy by weaving it in a staggered way on an industrial weaving machine via a shuttle-flying process. Colourful textile modules with arbitrary size and various weaving patterns are demonstrated. Featuring decent breathability and robustness, the hybrid power textile was demonstrated to harvest energy simultaneously from ambient sunshine and human biomechanical movement in a wearable manner with or without encapsulation. The hybrid power textile is highly deformable in response to human motion. Mixed with colourful wool fibres, the hybrid power textile with a size of 4 cm by 5 cm is capable of stably delivering an output power of 0.5 mW with a wide range of loading resistances from 10 KΩ to 10 MΩ for a human walking under sunlight of intensity 80 mW cm−2. More importantly, the power textile can be also adopted for large-area application such as curtains and tents. Under ambient sunlight with movement of a car or wind blowing, the textile delivered sufficient power to charge a 2 mF commercial capacitor up to 2 V in 1 min, continuously drive an electronic watch, directly charge a cell phone, as well as drive the water splitting reactions.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Energy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 12 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: Research was supported by the Hightower Chair foundation, KAUST, the ‘Thousands Talents’ Program for pioneer researcher and his innovation team, China, National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51432005, 5151101243, 51561145021) and the National Key R&D Project from the Minister of Science and Technology (2016YFA0202704). X.F. and Y.H. also would like to acknowledge the Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University of China (NCET-13-0631) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (106112016CDJZR225514).
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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