New Fibers Mimic Electric Eels #WearableWednesday


Those electric eels you’ve seen on NatGeo have been an inspiration for scientists at Fudan University in Shanghai according to LiveScience. They’ve developed fibers that mimic the electrocytes in eels, but producing higher voltages.  Eels use their electrocytes in concert, while the new fibers use a series of capacitors. Here’s a description.

The scientists fabricated the capacitors by first wrapping sheets of carbon nanotubes around elastic rubber fibers 500 microns wide, or about five times the average width of a human hair. Carbon nanotubes are pipes only nanometers, or billionths of a meter, in diameter that possess remarkable electrical and mechanical properties.

The researchers made sure that the electrically conductive carbon nanotube sheets did not completely cover the electrically insulating rubber. Instead, there were gaps where the insulating rubber was exposed. Such gaps are key, because capacitors consist of both conductive and insulating units.

Then, the scientists applied patches of electrically conductive electrolyte gel onto these fibers. The pattern of patches the researchers used converted the fibers into capacitors.

I decided to look further into the team’s white paper on Journal for Advanced Materials to find more benefits of this fiber structure besides the obvious small size and power generation. It’s going to be a win-win for wearables as the fiber’s shape makes it flexible, stretchable and weave-able. Their electrochemical capacitor can also be combined with solar cells for some energy harvesting or energy storing. The paper also boasted that “a fiber about 39 feet (12 meters) long could generate 1,000 volts”. They’ve already been tested in wearables, according to Hao Sun, lead author of the study.

In experiments, they created energy wristbands to power electronic watches, and wove fibers into T-shirts to power 57 light-emitting diodes (LEDs). In the future, these energy fibers “might be incorporated into our daily clothes to power our wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch and Google Glass”, Sun said.

For those watching trends in wearables, I would definitely put electrochemistry in the mix. This is going to have a big impact on manufacturing and the capability of textiles, bands and other wearables. Also, if you need a better understanding of capacitors, just check out our Circuit Playground guide on the topic. Circuit Playground is a special series by Adafruit including guides and videos explaining all of those electronic terms you haven’t had the guts to ask about. Besides, it’s okay if you don’t know them, because like a Jedi master, you will be learning for life anyway.  Did I mention there is a cool app, too? Do it!

Flora breadboard is Every Wednesday is Wearable Wednesday here at Adafruit! We’re bringing you the blinkiest, most fashionable, innovative, and useful wearables from around the web and in our own original projects featuring our wearable Arduino-compatible platform, FLORA. Be sure to post up your wearables projects in the forums or send us a link and you might be featured here on Wearable Wednesday!

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.