How would you like it if your phone started charging whenever you dropped it into your pocket? That may eventually be possible, thanks to a carbon nanotube-based ink that can turn many common fabrics into conductors, or even components of a charge-storing supercapacitor. These won’t be showing up in a clothing store near you anytime soon, however, as ensuring that the fabrics only direct the charge to appropriate devices—and not, say, to a sensitive body part—will be a separate engineering challenge.
Textile fibers are actually uniquely suited to transforming into electronics when combined with the seemingly ubiquitous carbon nanotube. In the new paper, the carbon nanotubes were mixed with a surfactant to form an ink (black, of course). The fabrics were dipped into the ink and dried in an oven for ten minutes to remove the water, resulting in a carbon nanotube-laden fabric. The bonds between the fabric and nanotubes are extremely strong, and neither further washing nor attempting to strip the fabric with tape causes the nanotubes to separate from the cloth.