Hot Pants with a difference: Vodafone Power Shorts use thermal energy to charge smartphones

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vodafone-power-shorts.jpgBringing a whole new meaning to the term “Hot Pants”, check out Vodafone’s prototype Power Shorts, which harvest thermal energy to give your mobile devices an extra bit of juice when away from a charger.

Using what Vodafone are calling “smart fabrics”, the shorts contain a “Power Pocket” that capitalises on the Seebeck effect, a process that produces a voltage from the temperature differences across a thermoelectric module. The shorts also gather kinetic energy, with ferroelectret materials that build voltage as they are squashed and deformed as you walk. According to Vodafone, “these foam-like materials contain voids – the surfaces of which are permanently charged. As the size and shape of the voids changes, a net charge is produced at the surface of the material.”

A days worth of walking about should give a smartphone an extra four hours of charge.

“We are exploring two specific technologies to charge the Power Pocket: thermoelectrics and kinetic energy harvesting,” said Stephen Beeby, Professor of Electronic Systems at the University of Southampton.

“Both represent cutting edge research around smart fabrics and we are looking to integrate these into consumer products, in this case, a sleeping bag and a pair of denim shorts.”

vodafone-sleeping-bag.jpgVodafone will also be testing out the Recharge Sleeping Bag at festivals over the summer, which works on similar principles to the Power Shorts. An eight hour sleep in the bag can deliver as much as an extra 11 hours of power to a smartphone.

“Our ambition was to create a practical but exciting solution to the charging-related issues experienced by many at outdoor events,” Vodafone UK’s Director of Communications, Christian Cull

“We hope that people harness the power in their pocket to keep them chatting, texting, browsing and photographing throughout their entire festival season!”

Gerald Lynch