Kharagpur: Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, Mechanical department here have generated electricity from clothes drying in natural ambience.
The research was done at a ‘dhobi ghat’ using 50 wet clothes with a surface area of 3,000 square meters which was put for drying by washermen in a remote village.
The clothes were connected to a commercial super-capacitor. In the process, the researchers were able to reliably charge up to around 10 volts in almost 24 hours. This stored energy is enough to glow a white LED for more than 1 hour.
Speaking to Professor Suman Chakraborty of Mechanical Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur said: “We have done very significant consistent research to figure out that this is indeed a possible phenomenon and developed a technology to source electricity from clothes drying in open space. This power may not be used for large scale application but is good enough to change the lives of a rural community.”
Demonstrating the research Professor Chakraborty said: “Clothes are illusively complex, if we look into a cloth we will see that it is made of a very complex yet regular structure of cellulose fibers. These cellulose fibers have certain charges in their walls. Now if you immerse a piece of cloth in a salt solution and have transpiration by surface tension then the salt solution will flow and ionise as it moves along the different passages of the cellulose fibers. The movement of ions in a continuous process generates a continuous voltage. If connected to an external register and can generate small power.”
The low-cost technique for electricity generation is in huge demand and till now people have used pressure gradient for migrating the ions from any channels or any devices.
“Now we have developed a technique where we have used a surface energy of the device in order to drive the liquid through the device and also we have utilized the evaporation from the surface so that we get the continuous migration of the ions,” said PhD scholar Sankha Shuvra Das of Mechanical Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur.
He further said that for the first time a cloth-based device has been developed. “The root area of the cloth is in contact with the liquid solution and due to the surface tension of the cloth, it is basically driving the ions in a forward direction or in a downstream direction.”
“After some time when the surface gets saturated with the liquid we connect a nanovolt meter probe and the electricity is generated,” he added.
“We observed that from a single unit of such devices we are able to get 500 to 700 millivolts. We further have upscale these devices may be up to 40 or 60 unit and have connected those devices in a series and parallel connection. From this experiment we observed that that from that 40-50connection we are able to generate 12 to 13 volts electric potential,” Das said.
The IIT research team is planning to implement this technology to remote areas where the availability of electricity is a major concern.