Advanced fibre-based energy storage for wearable applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Chemistry


The applicant is an experienced researcher and has a broad background in physical chemical characterisation, whose principal research interests include the synthesis, functionalisation and characterisation of advanced and nanostructured electro-materials for applications such as bionics, sensors, and energy storage. The applicant has pioneered the use of carbon nanotubes fibres as possible implantable electrode materials, when previously they were known for their exceptional mechanical properties. Novel fibres were developed, the electrical properties of which far exceeded that of previously made bio-fibres. The methods developed allowed fibre formation with broad material applicability.

A challenge for nanomaterial research is aggregation. To allow the extraordinary properties of nanomaterials to be fully exploited, they must be effectively dispersed and integrated into useful devices. Following appropriate dispersion these materials lend themselves to processing by fibre spinning. Flexible fibre electrodes have to date been produced almost exclusively from carbon. Recently, we published the first report combining a metal oxide nanotube with carbon nanotubes to create multi-functional fibre electrodes for biomedical applications. Since it has been shown that it is possible to spin fibres from titania nanotubes it should also be possible to extend the range of nanotubes to those made from other materials.

More recently in a very exciting development, researchers have combined graphene sheets with CNTs to produce macroscopic fibres with extraordinary strength properties. Combining the high electrical conductivity we previously achieved, with the strength of intercalated graphene and sustainable energy storage capabilities of manganese dioxide will enable the fabrication of highly novel and patentable flexible fibre electrodes.

This proposal aims to broaden the scope of our initial studies by incorporating nanotubes of manganese dioxide with carbon nanotubes and graphene, for the first time. We will demonstrate this approach by fabricating a novel flexible fibre electrode for sustainable energy storage. The overall aim of the proposed research is to fabricate fibre supercapacitors, which can be woven to make energy storage options for e-textiles.

Planned Impact

This proposal comprises leading edge physical and materials chemistry/science and aims to integrate scale up of functional fibre fabrication. A direct output of the proposed project (1- 2 year window) will be highly skilled researchers (a post-doctoral researcher and undergraduate interns) who will have developed multidisciplinary skills and will have experienced a broad range of technological fields that are important to the fabrication of functional fibres and energy storage.

The research programme will introduce several new collaborations with Fibretronic, The University of Manchester and Fudan University (China), over and above established collaborations associated with the applicant's current research programmes. The UK-based and international partners are committed to supporting aspects of this programme within their own research. Intellectual property will be owned by the partner introducing it (or jointly where appropriate). Research and Enterprise Support at Surrey offers skilled advice on IP protection and on routes to exploitation, an area in which partner Fibretronic is also committed to lending support.

Commercial beneficiaries of the research (wealth generation in 10 - 25 years) will be companies in the UK and worldwide in, or part of the supply chain for, smart and technical textiles. More specifically, in the 5 - 15 year window, UK industry will directly benefit if the outcomes of the research lead to more developed and focussed academic-industry collaborations (Technology Strategy Board / Knowledge Transfer Partnerships). There is a significant gap in UK research relating to functional fibres. Combining two trillion dollar markets such as textiles and electronics will undoubtedly yield enormous opportunities in new markets ranging from consumer electronics to medical diagnostics. The potential IP that could be generated in the area of functional fibres for energy storage (and later energy harvesting among other functional fibres) will yield opportunities for spin-out companies, providing employment opportunities and adding value to the UK economy.

On successful commercialisation, society will ultimately benefit (25 - 50 year longer term), as breakthroughs in the proposed technology sectors will have positive impacts on quality of life and energy security. Benefits would ultimately be gained for the military and emergency service personal wearing sensors (e.g. firemen with temperature sensors on their Personal Protective Equipment) and society could benefit by reducing their reliance on the national grid.
Description We have developed energy storage functions that are contained in a fibre format. Using nanostructured carbons, polymers and oxides of metals, we can potentially use these fibres in clothing to give portable, lightweight, flexible energy storage options.
The research underpinning these fibres, has led to conductive materials that have been further developed as fibres for wearable sensing. This has provided the groundwork for future studies into smart clothing and bandages for remote monitoring of wound care.
Exploitation Route With further development, these fibres can be used to power a whole range of applications, including military, healthcare and consumer electronics.
The materials and fibre format can also be applied by other researchers in the energy research community.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Electronics,Energy,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism

Description University of Surrey travel grant
Amount £6,440 (GBP)
Organisation University of Surrey 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2015 
End 08/2016
Description Collaboration between Dr Carol Crean and Prof E. Vallés (University of Barcelona) 
Organisation University of Barcelona
Country Spain 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Making conducting fibres at Surrey and testing fibres that have been modified in Barcelona using Raman spectroscopy at Surrey.
Collaborator Contribution Involves the University of Barcelona modifying conducting fibres made at Surrey with magnetic materials, and testing these modified fibres for electrochemical and magnetic properties
Impact There is a paper in final draft that will be submitted shortly to Journal of Materials Chemistry C
Start Year 2016