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UNIST research team develops electricity-generating clothes

UNIST research team develops electricity-generating clothes

Posted September. 22, 2017 08:19,   

Updated September. 22, 2017 09:27

Led by Professor Choi Kyung-jin and his team at the Department of New Materials Engineering of Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), a new path has been discovered; “wearable thermoelectric generator.” Powered by photovoltaic and thermoelement, the clothe produces electricity and can recharge gadgets including smartphones when worn.


While many made attempts in the past to generate electricity by harnessing the temperature difference between body heat and the atmosphere, others believed the wearable thermoelectric generator had a slim chance of being commercialized, as the difference was a mere two degrees celsius.

However, Professor Choi and his researchers solved this problem with thermoelement. To absorb light on the middle of a fabric-like thin electronic board, a substance called Bismuth telluride (Bi₂Te₃) was formulated into an ink and was printed in many layers. Thanks to the new generating element, the temperature difference between bright and dark areas heightened up to 20.9 degrees celsius. This means that a ten-fold temperature differential can be secured compared to the existing thermoelectric generator, and paved the way towards an era where one can produce electricity by sunbathing with the clothing. “I wish the recent research findings can be used as a catalyst to commercialize self-recharging technologies for small wearable electronic devices,” said Professor Choi.

Scientists in the area of power generation are also actively involved in “energy harvesting” projects which generate useful electricity from wasted energies. This is an area of science where surplus energies such as sunlight, body temperature, and pressure from sole can be utilized. For starters, Professor Baek Jeong-min and his fellow researchers at the Department of New Materials Engineering of UNIST developed an electricity generating technology based on friction from body movement with clothes on this May 29. Research found that it produced a whopping 20 fold power compared to existing studies. The team increased electricity by developing a new material, mixing high molecular substance.