A shocking idea: Imagine a fabric that generates small amounts of electricity powered by movement, allowing your clothing to zap bacteria and microbes as you go about your day.
A pair of Japanese firms say that's exactly what their new product can do and are touting it for everything from curbing body odor to offering the ideal material for protective gear like face masks.
The fabric, jointly developed by electronics company Murata Manufacturing and Teijin Frontier, dubbed PIECLEX, generates power from the expansion and contraction of the material itself, including when worn by someone moving around.
The low voltages aren't strong enough to be felt by the wearer, but they effectively stop bacteria and viruses from multiplying inside the fabric, the companies said.
"It has been effective on 99.9% of bacteria and viruses we tested, working to curb their proliferation or inactivate them," a Murata spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Friday.
The firms say the fabric has already shown promise for products like sportswear, sanitary items including diapers and masks, and for use in filters in industrial products.
They are now hoping to test whether the fabric can take on a particularly potent foe: the new coronavirus.
But testing is proving to be a challenge, with strict limits on the institutions that are allowed to handle the infectious disease.