Electrostatic power generation using carbon-activated cotton thread on textile
© Kim et al.; licensee Springer. 2015
Received: 4 December 2014
Accepted: 24 February 2015
Published: 28 April 2015
This paper describes a novel thread-shaped power generator which can be incorporated into cloth. A carbon-activated cotton thread is utilized for harvesting electrostatic energy from environment using contact and friction electrifications. A core of cotton thread was treated with carbon black nano particles to provide conductivity, and then encapsulated with a thin layer of polydimethylsiloxane for stability and protection. Electrostatic charges have been collected from carbon-activated threads stitched on pieces of textiles by repeated rubbing and tapping with a ploytetrafluoethylene sheet. An average open-circuit voltage of approximately -60.9 V has been generated from the thread-shaped generator with rubbing mode.
In recent years, there has been rapid growth in the diversity and application of small electronics, as evidenced by the increasing global prevalence of portable systems. Remarkable advancements of micro/nanotechnologies have resulted in the emergence of new applications including novel wearable electronics, the importance of which is on the rise [1-8]. As device size is minimized for certain applications, the development of compatible small power sources and connections has become more important than ever. To this end, the challenge is to integrate a power source for the wearable electronic devices. Most wearable electronics have been dominated by small devices being conspicuously mounted or adhered onto textiles, and are inconvenient to use. Here, we introduce a thread-based power harvester which can be inconspicuously integrated in textiles and supply power for small wearable electronics. The future will see many devices embedded into fabric itself, while maintaining the aesthetic value of fabrics and garments.
Currently, one of the most common power sources for mobile electronics is the lithium-ion battery, but it is not appropriate for wearable electronics because of the potential fire hazard of lithium in air, in addition to the large size and heavy weight. Another drawback is the requirement for frequent recharging. Moreover, to avoid problems described above, various alternative methods of harvesting power from solar , wind , mechanical vibration , etc. have been considered, but size and weight are not easily reduced in order to be compatible with wearable electronics. Many energy conversion mechanisms require certain devices and materials which cannot be miniaturized to be unnoticeably hidden in textiles. However, we believe that especially, electrostatic energy generation seems very useful if the size of the harvester can be miniaturized. Electrostatic discharge from clothes is commonly seen because electrostatic energy can easily be generated by body motions. In general, electrostatic charge generation can be classified into contact electrification (charging by repeated contact and separation of two different surfaces) and frictional electrification (charging by dynamic rubbing of two surfaces) . Compared to frictional electrification, contact electrification is relatively easy to analyze since there is no concern about the rubbing rate, temperature, and contact area on the static charge generation.
Here, we demonstrate a light and flexible thread-based power harvester, which can simply be woven into textiles. The contact and friction electrifications between a harvester integrated textile and a dissimilar material can provide enough output power to energize various wearable electronics. Furthermore, this thread-based electrostatic power generator is quite attractive because routine maintenance for battery operated devices may not be needed any more.
Summary of open-circuit voltages and short-circuit currents measured in rubbing and tapping modes
Thin cotton textile
Thick cotton textile
Open-circuit voltage in rubbing mode
Short-circuit current in rubbing mode
Open-circuit voltage in tapping mode
Short-circuit current in tapping mode
Conductive materials have significant electron mobility and consequently always maintain an electrical equilibrium. Although in nonconductive materials such as PTFE and PDMS, the low mobility of electrons does not provide for rapid recombination of charge imbalance. If contacted or rubbed, a dielectric may either give up electrons or capture free electrons. In general, PTFE accepts free electrons and becomes negatively charged by nature of the outer valence orbit . While the PTFE sheet is rubbed with the cotton textile, the negative charges are accumulated on the surface of PTFE sheet due to the electron affinity difference between PTFE and cotton. When PTFE sheet rubs on CAT, those accumulated negative charges attract positive charges and try to rapidly eliminate the imbalance by recombination of the opposite charges. Since rubbing or repeated contact produces a large electric field gradient in nonconductive materials, there is a rapid release of electrons when discharge occurs . For tapping mode, however, the PTFE sheet has little chance to contact with the cotton textile and the charges could not accumulate much before making contact with CAT.
In this paper, we have successfully demonstrated a newly developed electrostatic generator with carbon-activated threads, easily fabricated using a simple and cost-effective coating process. The thread-based power harvesters exhibit excellent high output performance when the PTFE sheet comes into contact with the normal cotton textile stitched with CAT. The rubbing mode is represented by much higher output values than the tapping mode due to the increased collection of electrostatic charges in the PTFE sheet by increasing contact area between PTFE and the cotton textile. The collected charges in the PTFE sheet can induce charges in the core of the CAT harvester through the insulating silicone outer shell. The produced power turned on 10 LEDs, corresponding to the rubbing of PTFE on the cotton textile stitched with CAT. The CAT harvester has many possible novel applications in collecting and using mechanical energy that is otherwise wasted during everyday movements.
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