All hail the nano-scientists. A group from the University of Texas, in Dallas, has developed a new technique using nanotubes that can spin yarns out of powders–specifically, powdered boron and magnesium. Though the research is in early stages, one of the coolest possible applications could be wearable power supplies.
“Powders are very important functional materials because they have very high surface area,” Ray Baugham, director of UT’s MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute, explains in Technology Review. “The problem is that powders without form are difficult to use.”
Baugham and his team have created a technique whereby after spraying a web of nanotubes with powder, they are then able to twist the material into a yarn. Such nano-yarns could have various applications: some could be self-cleaning, others could have superconducting properties, still others could be used to make extremely strong structural materials.
But the most eye-popping application is a vision of power supplies you can wear–clothes that themselves store energy. Technology Review cites Yi Cui, a Stanford professor who foresees a day when wearable power supplies keep charge flowing to our smartphones and other gadgets. Imagine, then, a pair of jeans with a USB jack right in your pocket. That could bring big changes to the skinny jeans industry–and far beyond.
[Image: Flickr user marktee]