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Katherine Bourzac

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Piezoelectrics Come into Fashion

Fashion designers are adopting high-tech materials for energy harvesting.

  • May 12, 2010

Technology Review has written about several projects aimed at improving piezoelectric materials, which harvest small amounts of energy from walking and other motion to generate electricity. Usually their aim is to make something that can recharge a cell phone or relieve a soldier from having to carry heavy batteries to power his gear. A piece by Ada Brunstein in the latest issue of the Atlantic (“The Little Black Piezoelectric Dress”) shows these high-tech materials being put to use in a different way: to make something beautiful. From the story:

According to the designer Amanda Parkes, among the most important functions of technologically enhanced designer wear are power generation and storage. Parkes designed the Piezing, a dress that uses piezoelectric discs and film to harness the body’s movement for electrical power, which is stored in a battery near the belly button. (Piezoelectric materials use vibrations from movement to generate electricity.) The battery can then be used to charge a favorite device. Elena Corchero’s exquisite parasols and fans are adorned with intricate embroidery. But solar cells, conductive thread, and batteries give her old-school style a modern twist: Corchero’s Light Gown is a sexy nightie that turns into a night-light when hung on its charger-hook.

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