A team of researchers led by The University of Texas and Hanyang University in South Korea hope the yarn, called Twistron, could be used in future sustainable energy missions.
"The easiest way to think of twistron harvesters is, you have a piece of yarn, you stretch it, and out comes electricity,” said Carter Haines, a lead author of the study.
The study published in the journal Science explains the yarns are made from carbon nanotubes 10,000 times smaller in diameter than a human hair.
Researchers spun and twisted the nanotubes into “high-strength, lightweight yarns”, coating them with an ionically conducting material, or electrolyte.
The yarn can then be used in numerous applications.
"In the lab, tests showed that a yarn weighing less than a housefly could light up a small LED light,” reports Reuters.
"When sewed into a t-shirt, it could power breathing sensors - like those used to monitor babies - using the stretch caused by the chest expanding at every inhalation."
The energy generated could be used to power wearable technology and internet connections.
However, the standout finding from the research was the yarn's ability to generate electricity in the sea. The yarn was attached to a buoy and a sinker at a beach in South Korea and as the waves passed over, stretching the yarn, electricity was produced.
"Fundamentally, these yarns are supercapacitors," said Dr. Na Li, a research scientist at the NanoTech Institute and co-lead author of the study. "In a normal capacitor, you use energy -- like from a battery -- to add charges to the capacitor. But in our case, when you insert the carbon nanotube yarn into an electrolyte bath, the yarns are charged by the electrolyte itself. No external battery, or voltage, is needed."