A hybrid photovoltaic-piezoelectric device has been developed at the IMRI of the University of Bolton which is capable of generating electrical energy from solar, wind, tides, and rain energy. The flexible photovoltaic-piezoelectric fibre can be woven to create natural energy-harnessing fabrics. Energy is created as the material is moved due to wind or rain, and also harness the power of the sun meaning the material could be a solar energy source as well. The flexible nature of the material means it can be incorporated into fabric, giving it numerous practical applications. It can be knit or woven into anything from clothing to cases for personal gadgets, constantly charging everything from your mobile phone to MP3 Player.

Photovoltaic-Piezoelectric Hybrid Fabrics Material for Harvesting Solar, Wind, Tides and Rain EnergyPrincipal inventor of the hybrid fibre is Director of Research at the University, Professor Elias Siores. He said: ‘There is nothing like our hybrid piezoelectric and photovoltaic fibre in the market at present. Scientists in America have created piezoelectric fibres with limited flexibility and consequently limited applications. As experts in smart materials research and development, we believe that we could build on these ideas, developing flexible smart structures that could generate energy from movement but are also durable and flexible. We have already developed a flexible fibre that generates electricity from movement created by wind and rain, but we also wanted to incorporate solar capabilities as well, creating a hybrid material’.

The hybrid photovoltaic-piezoelectric material has so much potential that it can be woven into everything, including laptop and mobile phone cases. In its casing the appliance could be charging, as it is handled or placed near sunlight. At home, a tree with needle like fibres, like a pine tree, could be converting sun, wind and rain into electrical energy which is stored ready for charging.

The most immediate applications will be in the area of low-power microelectronic-driven devices like mobiles, laptops, MP3s, Ipads – anything that requires re-chargeable batteries or small batteries to run. Obviously you wouldn’t leave your laptop out in the wind and the rain but movement created by being carried in its case or being placed near a window could be enough to generate the energy to recharge it.