The international joint research team led by Korean scientists succeeded in developing yarns that can produce electricity when stretched or twisted for the first time in the world. Therefore, industry sources say that mechanical and electronic devices that can operate semi-permanently and be self-powered will appear in the near future as the new yarns, which are attached to the artificial muscles of an electrically operated robot, will help retrieve some of the electricity.
The research team led by Professor Kim Sun-jeong from Hanyang University Department of Bio-medical Engineering, the University of Texas in the Unites States and the Jiangnan Graphene Research Institute in China developed new yarns that can generate and store electricity when stretched or twisted, according to the journal Science on August 24.
The yarns are consisted of millions of densely packed carbon nanotubes. In order to generate electricity, the yarns were coated with an ionically conducting material, or electrolyte. Just like a rubber band in a rubber powered ultra-glider, the threads can produce and store electricity when twisted or stretched. The new threads are named as "twistron,” a combined word of “twist” and “tron.”
In laboratory tests, the scientists showed that a twistron yarn that are 70㎛ thick, thinner than the diameter of a human hair, 58 cm long and weigh 19.2 mg could power a small green LED, which lit up each time the thread was stretched. The team also sewed twistron threads into a shirt. When subjects breathed normally, it generated an electrical signal that could power a wearable tracker.
Professor Kim said, “Semi-permanent devices can be created in the future by attaching the threads on the artificial muscles of an electrically operated robot.”