Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology in the US have developed a fabric that can simultaneously harvest energy from both sunshine and motion.

The development, which combines two types of electricity generation into one textile paves the way for developing garments that could provide their own source of energy to power devices such as smart phones or global positioning systems, the Institute says.

"This hybrid power textile presents a novel solution to charging devices in the field from something as simple as the wind blowing on a sunny day," says Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering.

To make the fabric, researchers used a commercial textile machine to weave together solar cells constructed from lightweight polymer fibres with fibre-based triboelectric nanogenerators. These use a combination of the triboelectric effect and electrostatic induction to generate small amount of electrical power from mechanical motion such as rotation, sliding or vibration.

Fibre-based triboelectric nanogenerators capture the energy created when certain materials become electrically charged after they come into moving contact with a different material. For the sunlight-harvesting part of the fabric, researchers used photoanodes made in a wire-shaped fashion that could be woven together with other fibres.

"The fabric is highly flexible, breathable, light weight and adaptable to a range of uses," Wang says.  "The backbone of the textile is made of commonly-used polymer materials that are inexpensive to make and environmentally friendly. The electrodes are also made through a low cost process, which makes it possible to use large-scale manufacturing."

While early tests indicate the fabric can withstand repeated and rigorous use, the researchers say they will be looking into its long-term durability.