David Carroll at Wake Forest University created Power Felt, which uses carbon nanotubes on a bed of plastic as conductors of electricity. The fabric feeds off warmth from the sun or your body heat.
It's also incredibly inexpensive and could retail for as little as $1 for a swatch the size of a cell phone, said David Carroll, the lead scientist on the project.
He's been working around the clock to develop the material for more than two years.
"It really started when my daughter, who was 11 at the time, said she wondered if there was a way you could charge a cell phone using the heat from your body," Carroll said in a phone interview. "My wife and I were on the phone a lot so our batteries were always dying down."
People had been producing thermoelectric technology for years, but Carroll's team was the first to do so inexpensively. The material would cost about $1 to produce a cell phone cover, he said.
Carroll spoke with several investors who are interested in the product. While he's started by showing how it works in a cell phone case, he'd eventually like to branch out to clothing and car interiors.
He said it could be two to three years before the product hits stores in full-force.
It looks like Carroll could be a very rich man soon: Approximately 835 million people used smartphones in 2011, and the number is increasing daily, according to Morgan Stanley research.
And according to a study by SecurEnvoy, 66 percent of people are petrified at the thought of being separated from their cell phone or the battery running out.