An MIT-designed outfit modeled by grad student Heather Knight at the Seamless: Computational Couture fashion show at Boston’s Museum of Science in January captures and stores energy generated by natural body movements. The dress’s designers, Media Lab grad students Amanda Parkes and Adam Kumpf, stitched thin strips of piezoelectric film onto the garment near the elbow and hip joints; they also sewed on buttonlike piezoelectric coins at strategic spots. With a positive charge on one side and a negative charge on the other, the piezoelectric material creates a voltage when it moves or is bent or twisted. A rectifier circuit connects the strips and coins to capacitors, which store electrical charge and are wired to a central coin near the wearer’s belly button–or what Parkes calls “the point of life of the dress.” Parkes is now optimizing the design so that one day, wearers will be able to power their cell phones, MP3 players, and other portable devices by plugging them into the central coin.
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