Back to the Future Part II promised us many things. Hoverboards, video calls, instant pizza, the Chicago Cubs winning the world series, Jaws 19 — the list goes on, but only some of these have actually come true to date. While the rest of us have been wishing we could jump in flying cars, however, one researcher has taken inspiration from Marty McFly's self-lacing shoes. In the spirit of tech-infused wearables, Associate Professor Jayan Thomas from the University of Central Florida has developed solar-powered textiles that can be turned into clothing.
"If you can develop self-charging clothes or textiles, you can realize those cinematic fantasies – that's the cool thing," said Thomas. That's not the only impressive part of his research, though. Not only can the copper ribbon filaments at the centre of his breakthrough capable of harvesting and storing energy from the sun, but they might then be able to be used to power other electronic devices, such as mobile phones.
Imagine never having to worry about your smartphone's battery levels while you're out of the house, no matter how much time you spend snapping photos and posting them to Instagram. Imagine being able to charge your laptop, tablet or e-reader just by sticking it in your bag. Imagine being free from portable chargers, cables and taunting on-screen power indicators.
We're not quite at that stage yet, but that's one of the uses Thomas envisages for his new technology, alongside electric cars. It's enough to make you exclaim "great Scott!" several times over.