Nanowire Packs Portable Power

Find out how your shirt or jeans pocket could charge your smartphone.
Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

(Inside Science TV) – Every day, millions of Americans rely on electronic devices that have one thing in common: they must be charged. The process is pretty simple, but it does require a bit of time and forethought.

But what if there were a better way to store and create the power needed to run these gadgets?

Now, scientists have created a better way using a simple electrical cable wire.

“You know that electrical cables are everywhere? How about converting these electrical cables into energy-storing devices as well,” asked Jayan Thomas, a nanotech engineer at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

To do that, Thomas and his team take a copper wire and cover it with billions of teeny, tiny nanowires and create layers that are glued together. The result is a wire that can create energy on the inside layers and store it within the outside layers.

nanowire diagram

Copper wire surrounded by two supercapacitor layers created by special nanowhiskers (green) 

Media credits

University of Central Florida

The device is able to power an LED light.

Creating and storing energy in a small wire could save a lot of space and make heavy batteries a thing of the past.

The technology could also increase the lifespan of the battery. A typical battery can be recharged about one-thousand times before it dies for good. This device could be recharged tens of thousands of times.

“The thing is, if we have a lot of nanostructure, it will give us a lot of surface area, which is good for our energy storage," said Zenan Yu, a graduate student at the University of Central Florida.

The new wire could someday be used to power electronics, electric cars, trains or planes. It could even be stitched into fabrics allowing smartphones to be charged by your clothes.

“They simply put their smart phone in their pocket, so they can charge their devices,” said Yu.

Get Inside The Science:

Materials Science: Energy Storage Wrapped Up

Jayan Thomas, University of Central Florida

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.