Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT-Kharagpur) recently claimed to have generated electricity from drying clothes in a natural ambiance using tiny channels in the cellulose-based fabric network woven traditionally. The design exploits a large transpiration surface for achieving a sustainable motion of salt ions through natural evaporation.

“The regular cellulose-based wearable textile, in this case, acts as a medium for the motion of salt ions through the interlace fibrous nano-scale network by capillary action, inducing an electric potential in the process,” said Suman Chakraborty, Professor, Mechanical Engineering Department, IIT-Kharagpur, and lead researcher of the group, in a report.

The up-scaling of the process was researchers demonstrated using around 50 clothes with a surface area of 3,000 sqr mtr—clothes being dried in tandem by washer men in a remote village. Connected to a commercial super-capacitor, the researchers were able to reliably charge up to around 10 Volt in almost 24 hours. This stored energy is enough to glow a white LED for more than one hour.

According to the research, this innovation demonstrates that ordinary cellulose-based wet textile, commonly dried in natural atmosphere, may be capable enough to serve the underprivileged community at large in terms of addressing the essential power requirements in remote areas.

“In a hot and dry environment, the natural evaporation gets spontaneously enhanced, so that the flow-induced electrical potential can be maximised. The device, thus, may turn out to be extremely effective in geographically warm and dry regions of the earth,” the release said. The electricity generation may be up-scaled massively by systematically drying a set of regular wearable garments under the sunlight, it added.