Power Generating Textiles

Project Memebers: Meg Grant, Troy Robert Nachtigall, Zoe Romano

Plan A was to work with the Konstantan thread donated to the Summercamp by Karl Grimm. We had a scientific paper that described an application using this thread to generate power.

Since we thought it was pretty unlikely we’d get any results from Plan A, we came up with a Plan B, to spin some thread dyed with thermochromic ink combined with resistive yarns so that we could heat up the thread to change the colour.

Plan A
We had the research paper Textile Mikrosysteme zur Energieumwandlung und speicherung by Dr. Uwe Möhring,
Dr. Andreas Neudeck, Dr. Wolfgang Scheibner, Dipl.-Ing. Frank Thurner and Dr. Yvonne Zimmermann from TITV Greiz. Our challenge was to make a handcraft version of their research – only problem was, the whole paper was in German! No problem, we had Google to translate for us, right? The Summary stared out:

Textiles are flexible, breathable, and depending on the application field highly resistant microstructures reindeer, which can be inexpensive textile technology manufactured in large quantities.

Wait, what?! Turns out humans are still better than robots (only just) and we needed to find ourselves an actual German-speaking human. Luckily there were a few available to help us out and we eventually got the idea… well enough for non-scientists…
Group Projects at e-textile summer camp

We should weave a structure with parallel lines of Konstantan and copper threads, insulating them from each other. This would create a Thermoelectric effect (aka Peltier effect) which generates energy from temperature differences.

We decided to use Zoe’s Laser Loom (schematics available on Thingiverse) to weave our cloth. We used an alternating warp of Konstantan and Bekinox Bekiflex coated copper yarns and a weft of hand-knitting wool. The research done in the scientific paper was on a much smaller scale, but we were curious to see if we’d get any kind of result at all.

Alternating warp of Konstantin and copper:

Weaving with the Laser Loom:

Testing the fabric – we got great results going from indoors in the cool shade to outdoors in the sun:

Crimping the loose ends:

Testing with a warm hand:

The result was that we managed to generate quite some millivolts, but there was also definitely some capacitance contributing to the energy generation. We definitely need more science in our craft to find out exactly what’s going on, but we have called Plan A a success!

Plan B

Meanwhile, we kept working on Plan B.

Preparing the roving for spinning with conductive and resistive yarns:

After we spun the different fibers with conductive yarns, we dyed them with black themochromic ink:

Thanks to the Heat Control Circuit Workshop, we were able to build our circuit… after some de-bugging:
Group Projects at e-textile summer camp
We realised that we just had way too much resistance in our yarns. So Plan B was a failure, but a good learning experience!

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