A group of University of Texas at Dallas researchers have invented energy-harvesting yarns, called twistrons, which produce electricity when repeatedly stretched.
Twistrons are constructed from carbon nanotubes, which are hollow cylinders of carbon 10,000 times smaller in diameter than a human hair. The nanotubes are twist-spun into high-strength, lightweight yarns. To make the yarns highly elastic, the researchers introduce so much twist that the yarns coil like an overtwisted rubber band. Led by Dr. Ray Baughman, Director of the NanoTech Institute and the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry, the research group first reported their twistron technology in 2017. Since then, the team has refined the processes they use to make the yarns, including incorporating graphene into the manufacturing process, and it has resulted in fibers that are more efficient and produce more electricity per stretching cycle than the previous version. Stretching the new coiled twistron yarns 30 times a second (30 hertz) generated 3.19 kilowatts per kilogram of peak electrical power, a 12-fold increase over the highest values reported by other researchers for alternative mechanical energy harvesters for frequencies between 0.1 hertz and 600 hertz.
University of Texas at Dallas, TX
Energy harvesting is a critically important area, especially as we are looking for alternatives to burning fossil fuels. The researchers aim to harvest energy from every available source.
Some of the potential applications of twistrons include harvesting energy from ocean waves to power sensors or eventually to help power cities, as well as using body movements to power wearable devices. The researchers have applied for a patent on the technology.