A twisted fibre made of gel-coated carbon nanotubes could be the very thing we need to steal energy from our surroundings that would otherwise go to waste.
Threads of a material dubbed "twistron" have already shown incredible promise in the laboratory, but could one day be built into power harvesters that collect the energy equivalent of spare change from our bodies, furniture, or wider environment.
"The easiest way to think of twistron harvesters is, you have a piece of yarn, you stretch it, and out comes electricity," says Carter Haines from The University of Texas at Dallas, whose international team of researchers developed the technology.
The concept of salvaging tiny amounts of energy from ambient heat, radio waves, or movement to power our pocket-sized electronic devices is by no means novel.
It's little wonder why we're obsessed with the idea – our world buzzes with low level electromagnetic waves, friction, and temperature gradients that can be tapped into and used to shuffle around a few electrons.
But for all of their variety, the hunt is still on to make a material that can harvest that energy, and is as robust, cheap, versatile, and efficient as possible.
The twistron might not be the final answer, but it's certainly showing promise.
The mechanism responsible for the fibre's generation of electricity is surprisingly simple. A mesh of carbon atoms rolled into tubes 10,000 times thinner than the width of a human hair makes up the fundamental fibres of the complete filament.
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19 December 2018
20 December 2018