The fabric that can charge up your phone

While felt may be best known as the material used to make children’s puppets with or for creating hats like the fedora, one Researchers have created what they are calling Power Felt, which turns body heat into energy.inventor has come up with an entirely different type of felt with an entirely different purpose.

It means you may need never have that moment again – when your mobile phone runs out of battery at a vital time. So next time you’re lost and your phone turns itself off before you can check your GPS or you need to ring a work colleague, you may be able to charge up your mobile just with the power of touch.

Created by Professor David Carroll from the Centre for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials in the US’s Wake Forest University, Power Felt is said to be able to keep your phone alive for 20 per cent longer – you can even sit on your phone and charge it up by passing electricity through your body to the device.

Another use being suggested for the material of the future is to provide emergency electricity for a radio or torch during a blackout.

Professor Carroll said he came up with the unique concept after discovering there was no material which occurred naturally which was affordable, flexible and which could conduct electricity in a manner which could be useful.

The scientist used nanotechnology to put tiny carbon nanotubes into equally tiny plastic fibres, making them look like a fabric.

Explaining how his concept worked, Professor Carroll said: “If you grab one end of a bar of metal, the electrons that heat your hand become warm. As they warm, they seek out the cold spots, which would be the other end of the bar so the electrons go rushing down to the other end of the bar.”

He said this process created voltage, called thermal voltage, which was exactly what Power Felt generated, even if there was no big temperature difference between your hands and the material.

It’s not the first time the professor has experimented with fabric which can conduct electricity. He has also made a shirt that charges batteries.

According to Professor Carroll, there could be a whole host of uses for his creations, including in toys and sports clothing that could have gadgets built into it to monitor a runner or athlete’s performance, with everything powered by the person’s own body heat.

Other uses could include lining car seats with Power Felt to boost battery power and service electrical needs, insulating pipes or collecting heat under roof tiles to lower gas or electricity bills.

Though Power Felt is not yet in mass production, its creator believes that the low cost of its manufacture, coupled with the fact it can be used anywhere at any time, makes it a truly realistic option for charging your phone in the future.

Although Professor Carroll is currently tweaking Power Felt before it is ready for market, he said: “I imagine being able to make a jacket with a completely thermoelectric inside liner that gathers warmth from body heat, while the exterior remains cold from the outside temperature. If the Power Felt is efficient enough, you could potentially power an iPod, which would be great for distance runners. It’s pretty cool to think about and it’s definitely within reach.”