By Vivian Cheng
As a general rule people like flexibility. We want to be flexible physically, we want our schedules to be flexible, and we even want our technology to be flexible. Fortunately, a group of scientists from the Polytechnic School of Montreal have come up with just the thing to satisfy our growing need for flexible, versatile tech. They’re developing a flexible battery that can be woven right into your clothing. Although flexible and wearable batteries have been made and tried before, the battery that the Polytechnic School of Montreal has made is a remarkable leap forward.
To make this battery, the scientists sandwiched solid polythene between a lithium-ion phosphate cathode and a lithium titanium anode. These materials are thermoplastic, which means they can stretch into a thread when put under gentle heat. This thread can be woven right into articles of clothing. The possibilities are endless. The power in these batteries can be used for practical and even life-saving purposes; a production version could store enough power to emit a distress signal or defibrillate a patient.
This flexible battery is still a work in progress, and scientists are hoping to be able to incorporate the battery into backpacks and medical-monitoring garments. Before it takes that leap, scientists will have to clear one very important hurdle: how to waterproof the battery against rain and sweat.
The Future for Threadlike Batteries
Once those hurdles are overcome, it’s easy to see a future where our clothes and gadgets are seamlessly integrated, providing entertainment, medical alerts, or communication. The clothes of elderly patients could unobtrusively monitor their health in real time, while athletes could get instant feedback on their workout from athletic clothing that tracks their heart rate and distance. Children could be equipped with GPS tagged clothing to protect against abductions or just simply wandering off.
This is hardly the first announcement of blending tech with clothing. In 2010 researchers at UC Berkeley announced they had created tiny piezoelectric filaments that generate electricity from motion. Woven together into clothing they could generate energy from simple body motion. Combine energy-generating fibers with energy-storing fibers and the possibilities for “smart” clothing are endless.
Unfortunately, these super-threads aren’t ready for prime time. If you’re interested in powering up your wardrobe now then check out LumiGram’s line of clothing, accessories, and many other household items, including cushion covers, table cloths, and curtains made out of fiber optics.
LumiGram clothing can stay luminous for up to twelve hours, drawing power from 1.5V replaceable (and conventional) batteries. It also has a switch on the battery box so the wearer can control when the garment will be lit — it isn’t exactly practical to be glowing in broad daylight. LumiGram doesn’t discriminate, either. It sells luminous attire for both men and women, allowing both genders to light up a club or a dance floor with style and flair.