This flexible ultracapacitor can be woven into clothing, potentially boosting wearable devices

Last month, George Washington University researchers showed how two wonder materials — graphene and carbon nanotubes — can be used to create an effective and relatively inexpensive ultracapacitor. Now, a team based out of Singapore and the U.S. has demonstrated an ultracapacitor (subscription required) based on the same materials that can be woven into clothing, opening up applications for wearable devices.

Ultracapacitors, which are used to store energy, are capable of charging and discharging super fast. The group’s ultracapacitor looks like a coiled wire and is small and flexible enough to be woven into clothing. It has already been produced in pieces as long as 150 feet.

The team believes it could be used to power medical devices or communication devices, plus general electronics.

“The team is also interested in testing these fibers for multifunctional applications, including batteries, solar cells, biofuel cells, and sensors for flexible and wearable optoelectronic systems,” Case Western Reserve engineering professor Liming Dai said in a release. “Thus, we have opened up many possibilities and still have a lot to do.”

In tests, the team found its ultracapacitor also lasted through more charges than a regular rechargeable battery, which generally lives for less than 1,000 cycles. The ultracapacitor retained 93 percent of its charging abilities after 10,000 cycles.

The ultracapacitor could complement electronics components like circuits and sensors, which have already been shrunk to the point that they can be embedded in clothing. Battery technology has generally remained bulkier and less flexible, limiting how far electronics can shrink.