Scientists have created a customizable, fabric-like power source that can be cut, folded, or stretched without losing its function. The team has created the wearable a supercapacitor, which works like a fast-charging battery and can be recharged many times.
Crucially, they have made their supercapacitor customizable or "editable," meaning its structure and shape can be changed after it is manufactured, while retaining its function as a power source. Existing stretchable supercapacitors are made into predetermined designs and structures, but the new invention can be stretched multi-directionally, and is less likely to be mismatched when it is joined up to other electrical components.
The new supercapacitor, when edited into a honeycomb-like structure, has the ability to store an electrical charge four times higher than most existing stretchable supercapacitors. In addition, when stretched to four times its original length, it maintains nearly 98 percent of the initial ability to store electrical energy, even after 10,000 stretch-and-release cycles.
Experiments showed that when the editable supercapacitor was paired with a sensor and placed on the human elbow, the editable supercapacitor was able to provide a stable stream of signals even when the arm was swinging, which are then transmitted wirelessly to external devices, such as one that captures a patient's heart rate.
The editable supercapacitor is made of strengthened manganese dioxide nanowire composite material. While manganese dioxide is a common material for supercapacitors, the ultralong nanowire structure, strengthened with a network of carbon nanotubes and nanocellulose fibers, allows the electrodes to withstand the associated strains during the customization process.