One of the downsides of smart wearables has been the need to carry a battery pack to recharge electronics. Researchers at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom have developed technology that could make the cumbersome packs a thing of the past. The team was able to print a flexible battery-like device known as a supercapacitor directly onto a textile using a simple screen-printing process. Supercapacitors act much like batteries but can recharge devices rapidly—even in a matter of seconds.
Graphene-oxide, which is conductive and can be produced relatively cheaply in an ink-like solution, is used to print the supercapacitors, making them part of the fabric itself. The result is a device that stores energy and is as flexible as fabric. In a test on cotton fabric, the printed electrodes demonstrated superior mechanical stability due to the strong interaction between the ink and textile substrate.
As the technology continues to be researched and developed, it could be used in a number of applications, including sportswear that monitors performance, embedded health-monitoring devices, lightweight military gear and new classes of mobile communication devices. Wearable computers could also be on the horizon. For more details, visit www.manchester.ac.uk.