Microsupercapacitors Make Wearable Electronics Disappear

Remember the days of those bulky sensors or battery packs you once wore on your person, perhaps in inconvenient pockets, that were sometimes washed by accident? You thought you were on the cutting edge, didn't you? Well, those days are thankfully gone thanks to microsupercapacitors!

(Wearable wires (credit: Tao Chen, Liming Dai/Energy Storage Materials))

But taking that next step in wearable technology means ditching bulky, clothes-deforming batteries. Supercapacitors (see “Flexible 3D graphene supercapacitors may power portables and wearables“), as discussed on KurzweilAI, are a perfect match for that. They work like tiny batteries, but unlike batteries, they can be rapidly charged and deliver more power quickly in a smaller space.

Enter Case Western Reserve University researchers, who announced Wednesday that have developed flexible wire-shaped microsupercapacitors that can be embedded as microscopic-sized wires directly in fabrics. These provide three times higher capacitance than previous attempts to create microsupercapacitors, the researchers say.*

In this new design, the modified titanium wire is coated with a solid electrolyte made of polyvinyl alcohol and phosphoric acid. The wire is then wrapped with either yarn or a sheet made of aligned carbon nanotubes, which serves as the second electrode.

The titanium oxide nanotubes, which are semiconducting, separate the two active portions of the electrodes, preventing a short circuit.

“They’re very flexible, so they can be integrated into fabric or textile materials,” said Liming Dai, the Kent Hale Smith Professor of Macromolecular Science and Engineering. “They can be a wearable, flexible power source for wearable electronics and also for self-powered biosensors or other biomedical devices, particularly for applications inside the body.”

(Parenthetically, I'm thrilled that engineers still want to use phrases like "microsupercapacitors" because it reminds me of the youthful Golden Age of science fiction. Words like chronovitameter, ultra-microrobot, ultra-communicator, electrotelescope, telespectroscope, thermelectrium, electric-space-strain projector, infra-infra-infra fluorescence, time-telespectroscope, argento-platinoid, gravito-statoscope, meteorometer and hypnobioscope. Now, those are words to conjure with!)

SF fans of course recall the sleeve communicator from Murray Leinster's 1945 classic First Contact:

"That," said the skipper savagely, "is just what's happening now. There's something like a locator beam on us...

He pressed the button in his sleeve communicator and snapped:

"Action stations! Man all weapons! Condition of extreme alert in all departments immediately!"

Fans of sf writer Rudy Rucker may congratulate him on predicting the microsupercapacitor equipped shirt:

Della's first present was an imipolex sweatshirt called a heartshirt…The heartshirt was an even dark blue, except for a few staticky red spots drifting about.

"It can feel your heartbeat … look..."
(Read more about Rudy Rucker's cool heartshirt from Wetware [1988])

Via KurzweilAI.

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