Clean energy from carbon nanotubes in water

What if by washing your hands or even just sweating you could power a flexible watch or a small wearable electronic device?

Nanoscientists in Shanghai have discovered a way to generate electricity by submerging a fabric made of carbon nanotubes in water. The device consists of two types of nanotubes fibres acting as two electrodes. When water molecules come into contact with the graphene electrodes they ionise and transport electricity from one electrode to the other. Although only producing a small voltage, the device is green, produces a reliable voltage output, and is rechargeable. The device has been demonstrated to produce 700mW/m2, enough to power an LCD display and controls. The team also made a tee shirt from the fabric, which when wetted was able to power a pedometer. The fabric shows potential for reducing dependence on small batteries and comes after another green water based technology reported last week. The team hopes to commercialise the device in consumer electronics and remote/emergency gear. Perhaps souvenir tee shirts and quick dry wash-and-wear tourist clothing should be target applications. Researchers at USyd this week estimated that 8% of global carbon emissions originate from tourism, a figure that is four times higher than previous accounts.

Read more: Nature / Wiley Journal // Nature Climate Change / The Conversation

Image: Chemical‐to‐Electricity Carbon: Water Device

This story is taken from the 11 May 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.