There have been many advances in battery technology in the last few years, particularly when it comes to the creation of flexible batteries that can be integrated into fabric and other malleable materials. Better, more flexible, and durable battery technology increases the potential for mobile and wearable devices that can function well even when used on complex shapes, like the human body.

Now researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York have developed a stretchable textile-based, bacteria-powered biobattery that could one day be integrated into wearable electronics. Led by Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor Seokheun Choi, the textile-based biobattery produces power similar to that of Choi’s previously created paper-based microbial fuel cells. Microbial fuel cells (MFC) are an optimal power source for wearable electronics because they provide more stable enzymatic reactions and a longer lifetime than traditional batteries and other enzymatic fuel cells. Sweat generated from the human body can be a potential fuel source to support this process. According to a recent Binghamton University press release, the textile-based battery can produce stable electricity-generating capability when tested under repeated stretching and twisting cycles. “There is a clear and pressing need for flexible and stretchable electronics that can be easily integrated with a wide range of surroundings to collect real-time information. Those electronics must perform reliably even while intimately used on substrates with complex and curvilinear shapes, like moving body parts or organs,” Choi said.

The hope is that the stretchable, twistable power device can serve as a standardized platform for textile-based batteries going forward. Choi pointed out that humans possess more bacterial cells than human cells in their bodies, making the use of bacterial cells as a power source for wearable electronics possible. This also makes the stretchable battery sustainable, renewable, and eco-friendly. Once the technology is perfected, textile-based batteries could make a whole new generation of wearable electronics possible.