The Flexible Integrated Energy Device (FIED) in development in Australia  (Source: CSIRO)
But will it be used for good or for evil?

Like something from Terminator or Robocop, the power jacket towers, pulsing with electricity ... to power your consumer electronics.

Okay, so maybe the new power jacket being developed by CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia's national science agency, isn't a high-tech super-weapon, but you still would feel decidedly futuristic wearing one.

The power jacket, which could also serve other less extraordinary purposes -- such as providing warmth -- is fueled by a device in development at the CSIRO, funded by a $4.1 million grant.  The device driving the jacket is dubbed "Flexible Integrated Energy Device" (FIED), designed to be easily inserted in coats or jackets.

The device is composed of three distinct layers of components.  The first rests in the form of two piezoelectric shoulder pads, which generate electricity based on user movement.  The second portion consists of patches of conductive fabric, resting over the user's chest and abdomen, which store the charge generated by the shoulder pads.  The last portion of the device is the rectifier and power control circuity, which converts the generated electricity into a usable form.

Lead researcher on the project, Dr. Adam Best described the device's impressive design in a recent press release by CSIRO. “It will look like an ordinary garment but have extraordinary capabilities.", he says. "As the person wearing the garment moves,the vibrations they create can be harvested and channeled in to recharging the battery or powering plug-in electronic device or devices. CSIRO has combined its significant capabilities in the areas of energy harvesting, energy storage and advanced fibre development to create the integrated battery technology.”

The power jacket seems like an intriguing example of a technology that would find itself equally at home in the consumer market -- for example, powering MP3 players for winter sports participants -- and in the defense field, powering soldier's electronics. 

The military use was a major consideration in designing the device.  Today's soldiers carry a large amount of batteries to power their electronics, and these batteries weigh them down and decrease mobility.  By wearing a power jacket, they could ditch the batteries.

Dr. Best was thrilled at the possibility of aiding Australia's armed forces, saying, “It’s a real motivator to know this technology could one day be used by the men and women who serve in Australia’s Defence Force to protect our country.”

Several key challenges will need to be overcome in order for the jacket to be fully wearable and usable.  The jacket's electronics will need to be water resistant as they might be soaked by rain or tossed in the washing machine.  The electronics must also be light-weight.

The idea of wearable electronics is not a new one.  Previously, DailyTech covered Phillips demonstration of LED fabric technologyDailyTech, also recently reported on the debacle involving an MIT student wearing a LED-laden tech-art vest being arrested at gunpoint at the airport, under bomb suspicions. 

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
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