Thermoelectric devices have been around for a long time, and offer the awesome ability of converting a heat difference (one side of the device cold, the other hot) into electrical energy – or reversing the process and using electricity to create that thermal difference (great for car-powered refrigerators, for example). Now, researchers at Wake Forest University have taken this basic technology and transformed it into a multi-layer, flexible felt-like fabric. Possible applications could include wearable electronics (though the ambient air temperature needs to be significantly lower than body temperature), or simple things like wrapping pipes in this.
Portable electronics have always struggled with their power sources, with design having been a tradeoff between storage capacity and size/weight/cost. Being able to generate energy on the move would be a big benefit.
Read more on this over at Design News.