Brunel conductive thread

Wearable and mobile electronics all require one thing: electricity. Unfortunately, strapping on battery packs is not always a convenient solution. While energy harvesting has great promise for producing the power that we need, the problem of how to store it until needed remains.

Researchers at Brunel University London have a possible solution: thread that stores electricity. Others have developed conductive threads for clothing, and some have even created threads that can store energy. One of the big challenges has been to create threads that can provide sufficient voltage for typical devices. Another challenge is to create a thread that can be manufactured economically. The Brunel scientists have created a thread that can deliver up to 2 Volts, which is useful as most common batteries supply 1.5 Volts. They have also designed a multi-layered structure of electrolyte and conductive inks that coat a thin stainless steel wire as a core. This coating process can be used to create threads with up to eight functional layers, allowing designers to tune the storage properties as needed.

The resulting thread is a supercapacitor. Unlike batteries that rely on chemical changes to store and release electricity, a supercap can be charged and discharged rapidly, and does not wear out after repeated charging cycles. If this new technology pans out, we could literally end up wearing our electrical storage on our sleeves.