UK University close to creating energy harvesting material
by Tim Willmott : Be the first to leave a comment
Researchers at the University of Bolton, led by Professor Elias Siores, are pioneering developments into 3D textile structures using piezoelectric energy harvesting fibres.
The long term results could lead to energy harnessing carpets or mobile devices, like phones and tablets, being charged on the move. The research has just been published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, in the world’s leading academic journal, Energy and Environmental Science ( EES, impact factor of 11.65 ).
The research carried out previously at Bolton demonstrates the development of continuous piezoelectric yarns which show high flexibility and high mechanical strength. This has now made it possible for piezoelectric fibre to be woven into intricate and complex structures, such as 3D spacer textiles, opening a new horizon for commercial applications.
The University of Bolton’s Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry (KCMC) post-doctoral research fellow, Dr Navneet Soin, is the main co-author of the paper published in EES. He said: ‘We believe that this is just the first step in the creation of true wearable energy harvesting structures which do not look and feel any different from the conventional fabrics and yet provide the highest level of functionality.’
The use of 3D textile structures has been around for decades in applications such as medical textiles and highly breathable sportswear. But Dr Soin says there have been no reports of the use of 3D textiles for piezoelectric energy harvesting.
Flexible piezoelectric fibres can generate electricity by harnessing the energy created by an impact or movement, for example a footstep on a carpet, then converting that mechanical energy into electrical power.
Dr Soin added: ‘The next step of the project is to focus on a couple of core applications and develop it from there. We envisage that with continued development in the area, we could be looking at actual commercial harvesters based on this technology in the next four to five years.’
The research work is a collaboration between the University’s Institute of Materials Research and Innovation (IMRI) and Institute for Renewable Energy and Environmental Technologies (IREET), both world renowned research centres. This fibre and 3D structure developed will be taken to market by FibrLec, a new sustainable energy company working with the University to commercialise its innovative smart materials in renewable energy applications.
The proceeds from commercialisation will support scholarships and bursaries for students in need of financial support to study in science, technology and maths (STEM) at the University. They will also contribute to expanding the technological advances in IMRI and IREET.
The initial and on-going research into the energy harvesting piezoelectric fibre has been carried out by On Campus Provost and Director of Research, Prof Elias Siores and his team.
Prof Siores said: ‘We are delighted to see innovative research outcomes moving from the laboratory to the commercial world, but as academics we also pride ourselves for being able to publish in prestigious international journals such as EES.’
University of Bolton
Bolton BL3 5AB