Scientists are always pushing us closer to the future envisioned by sci-fi movies. Now we learn that, like the poor, deceived wretches trapped by the Matrix in the classic movie of the same name, humans soon may become walking batteries — at least, if they wear the right t-shirt.
A professor at the University of South Carolina has figured out how to convert a t-shirt into a power source. He bought a cheap t-shirt from a discount store, soaked it in fluoride and dried it in a high-temperature oxygen-free environment. As a result, the cellulose in the fibers turned into activated carbon. The fibers were then thinly coated with manganese oxide and thereby became capacitors — i.e., a device capable of storing an electric charge. Add an electrode and a plug and — voila! — your t-shirt could be used to power your cell phone or iPad.
I don’t like wearing artificial fibers that don’t “breathe,” so I doubt that I would want to wear a carbonized shirt coated with manganese oxide. What’s more, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable in a garment that was supercharged with electricity. I’d be afraid that a little static electricity could cause a massive short circuit — and I’d hate to think of the electrical firestorm that could be created if I also wore a pair of thigh-rubbing corduroy pants on a cold, dry winter’s day.