Wearable electronics or e-textiles is the integration of flexible electrical devices in clothing and accessories and all such devices inevitably need a power supply. Traditional energy storage devices such as rechargeable batteries lack flexibility and are generally incompatible with e-textiles. Therefore a flexible energy storage device with minimal weight and size that can be integrated on/into textiles is needed. Recently, researchers at the University of Southampton have demonstrated a textile supercapacitor that can be fabricated in any normal fabric and subsequently incorporated into any application e.g. garments.
Photograph of Cotton (left), silk (middle) and poly-cotton (right) electrode for supercapacitor design
A textile supercapacitor can store a much higher quantity of energy than a normal capacitor and can be charged and discharged many thousands of times without affecting performance. The team have demonstrated a solid-state supercapacitor fabricated in only a single layer of textile made using spray coated carbon electrodes and a dried gel electrolyte. The team have also shown this connected to an energy harvesting device formed on the same piece of cotton textile. Further work is required to make this suitably robust, but this work points to the feasibility of a textile power module that can capture and store energy in powering e-textiles in the future.