SCIENTISTS are one step closer to the commercial launch of a revolutionary “smart material” which harnesses nature’s energy so laptops and phones can be charged on the go.

Photovoltaic-piezoelectric flexible fibre has been developed by the experts from the University of Bolton’s Institute for Materials Research and Innovation.

The material can harvest energy from the elements to power up devices such as mobile phones.

And the patented technology will be showcased at a high profile conference at Cambridge University next week.

The university’s Director of Research, Professor Elias Siores, will speak at the prestigious Innovation Leaders Conference (ILC) at Clare College, taking place from February 27 and 28.

Prof Siores, who heads research at the world renowned centres IMRI and Institute for Renewable Energy and Environmental Technologies, will speak at the Clean Tech part of the event.

The fibre is being developed and taken to market by FibrLec, a sustainable energy company working at the university.

Prof Siores said: “It is an honour to be invited again to speak at such prestigious event at one the world’s leading academic institutions.

“Chairing a panel will also provide the opportunity to discuss the future of clean technology and renewable energy as a viable option to fossil fuels.

"Smart and multifunctional materials can provide alternative solutions. Industry and academia need to continually work together to develop innovative new green technologies.”

Recently the work of the university in pioneering the use of energy harvesting fibres into everyday textiles was published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the well-respected journal, Energy and Environmental Science (EES).

Flexible piezoelectric fibres can generate electricity by harnessing the energy created by an impact or movement — for example a footstep on a carpet.

The fibres could be used in “3D textile structures” which have been around for a long time such as medical textiles and highly breathable sportswear — but there have been no 3D textiles for piezoelectric energy harvesting.

The University of Bolton’s Knowledge Centre for Materials Chemistry (KCMC) post-doctoral research fellow, Dr Navneet Soin, is the main co-author of the paper published in EES.

He said: “We believe that this is just the first step in the creation of true wearable energy harvesting structures which do not look and feel any different from the conventional fabrics and yet provide the highest level of functionality.”

The proceeds will support scholarships and bursaries for students in need of financial support to study in science, technology and maths at the university.