Powering Wearable Technology with Textile Supercapactior

A flexible textile supercapacitor patch, created by Drexel University researchers, can power a microcontroller and wirelessly transmit temperature data for nearly two hours without a recharge.

Powering Wearable Technology with Textile Supercapactior: Researchers at Drexel University are one step closer to making wearable textile technology a reality. Recently published in

the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Material’s Chemistry A, materials scientists from Drexel’s College of Engineering, in partnership with a team at Accenture Labs, have reported a new design of a flexible wearable supercapacitor patch. It uses MXene, a material discovered at Drexel University in 2011, to create a textile-based supercapacitor that can charge in minutes and power an Arduino microcontroller temperature sensor and radio communication of data for almost two hours.

“This is a significant development for wearable technology,” said Yury Gogotsi, PhD, Distinguished University and Bach professor in Drexel’s College of Engineering, who co-authored the study. “To fully integrate technology into fabric, we must also be able to seamlessly integrate its power source — our invention shows the path forward for textile energy storage devices.”

Co-authored along with Gogotsi’s undergraduate and postdoctoral students; Genevieve Dion, professor and director of the Center for Functional Fabrics and researchers from Accenture Labs in California, the study builds on previous research that looked at durability, electric conductivity and energy storage capacity of MXene-functionalized textiles that did not push to optimize the textile for powering electronics beyond passive devices such as LED lights. The latest work shows that not only can it withstand the rigors of being a textile, but it can also store and deliver enough power to run programmable electronics collecting and transmitting environmental data for hours – progress that could position it for use in health care technology.

“While there are many materials out there that can be integrated into textiles, MXene has a distinct advantage over other materials because of its natural conductivity and ability to disperse in water as a stable colloidal solution. This means textiles can easily be coated with MXene without using chemical additives — and additional production steps — to get the MXene to adhere to the fabric,” said Tetiana Hryhorchuk, a doctoral researcher in the College, and co-author. “As a result, our supercapacitor showed a high energy density and enabled functional applications such as p

owering programmable electronics, which is needed for implementing textile-based energy storage into the real-life applications.”

Powering Wearable Technology with Textile Supercapactior: Drexel researchers have been exploring the possibility of adapting MXene, a conductive two-dimensional nanomaterial, as a coating that can imbue a wide range of materials with exceptional properties of conductivitydurabilityimpermeability to electromagnetic radiation, and energy storage.1

Recently, the team has looked at ways of using conductive MXene yarn to create textiles that sense and respond to temperature, movement and pressure. But to fully integrate these fabric devices as “wearables” the researchers also needed to find a way to weave a power source into the mix.

“Flexible, stretchable and truly textile-grade energy storing platforms have so far remained missing from most e-textile systems due to the insufficient performance metrics of current available materials and technologies,” the research team wrote. “Previous studies reported sufficient mechanical strength to withstand industrial knitting. However, the demonstrated application only included simple devices.”

The team set out to design its MXene textile supercapacitor patch with the goal of maximizing energy storage capacity while using a minimal amount of active material and taking up the smallest amount of space — to reduce the overall cost of production and preserve flexibility and wearability of the garment.

To create the supercapacitor, the team simply dipped small swatches of woven cotton textile into a MXene solution then layered on a lithium chloride electrolyte gel. Each supercapacitor cell consists of two layers of MXene-coated textile with an electrolyte separator also made of cotton textile. To make a patch with enough power to run some useful devices — Arduino programmable microcontrollers, in this case – the team stacked five cells to create a power pack capable of charging to 6 volts, the same amount as the larger rectangular batteries often used to power golf carts, electric lanterns, or for jump-starting vehicles.


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