Clothes are great. They keep us warm, and hide our gross, naked bodies from one another. But what if clothing serve an even more utilitarian purpose? Something simple... like, say, charging your phone?
Good news! South Korean scientists have developed a foldable, wearable fabric that generates energy as it moves and flexes on your body. According to Sang-Woo Kim, lead developer on the project, a shirt made from this fabric could be worn, and even patched, like any other. It's just a little bit heavier than normal, due to some internal wiring.
Early prototypes had small screens and connectivity embedded directly into the shirt. Even a keyless remote entry system was included: Just press the cuff of your sleeve to unlock your car!
Here's how it works: Each piece of cloth consists of three layers. The outer two are coated in silver, while the middle layer includes tiny zinc-oxide rods, just billionths of a meter long and coated with a special polymer. When the zinc-oxide rods rub back and forth against the silver, the friction releases enough energy to power a small screen or charge a phone.
There's no news yet regarding a consumer-ready version of this tech, but we wouldn't be surprised to see it come to market sometime in the next five years. And since laundry machines help pay the bills here at Reviewed.com, we hope that when a phone-charging shirt finally hits store shelves, it won't be dry clean–only.