Forgot your charger? No problem. Scientists have developed a microfiber fabric that can generate enough electricity to juice up a cell phone or a mini-music player. If turned into clothing, the fabric would get its power from the action of your daily movement. The material uses zinc-oxide nanowires that are arranged in pairs–one wire in each grouping is coated with gold, and serves as the electrode. When the fabric moves, the wires move and bend, and the fabric translates this mechanical energy into electricity.
A report on these so-called fiber-based nanogenerators was just published in Nature. The scientists say there are still a few technical hurdles. One problem: You might not want to throw a power shirt in the wash. Lead researcher Zhong Lin Wang of the Georgia Institute of Technology says zinc oxide is sensitive to moisture, so you’d need to find some way to protect the nanowires before they’d be ready for the washing machine.