Wearable thermoelectric generators: Device demonstrated
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In the 1999 movie The Matrix, humans are used as power sources to generate energy for robots who control the realm of the matrix. Morpheus, as played by Laurence Fishburne, said in the film: “The human body generates more bio electricity than a 120 volt battery and over 25000 BTUs of body heat. Combined with a form of fusion the machines had found all the energy they would ever need.”
Now, scientists are edging closer to the plot of the film by developing wearable tech which is powered by the body.
A device from the University of Colorado Boulder (UCB) is able to draw energy by just coming into contact with human skin.
The device is attached to stretchy rubber which can be used as a ring or a bracelet.
When the device is placed in direct contact with the skin, it uses thermoelectric generators to convert the body’s internal temperature into electricity.
The device only generates around one volt of electricity per square centimetre of skin it touches, but that would be enough to power a watch or a fitness tracker, according to the research published in the journal Science Advances.
Scientists at UCB explained the base of the device is made from a material called polyimine.
Thermoelectric chips can be placed in the base, which draws on heat generated by the body.
The current concept is similar to a microchip attached to a band of rubber, but it could one day replace the need for battery-powered watches.
Jianliang Xiao, senior author of the new paper and an associate professor in the Paul M Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at UCB, said: “In the future, we want to be able to power your wearable electronics without having to include a battery.
“Whenever you use a battery, you’re depleting that battery and will, eventually, need to replace it.
“The nice thing about our thermoelectric device is that you can wear it, and it provides you with constant power.
“The thermoelectric generators are in close contact with the human body, and they can use the heat that would normally be dissipated into the environment.”
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The power of the dvice can easily be increased simply by adding more thermoelectric chips.
Prof Xiao said: “What I can do is combine these smaller units to get a bigger unit.
“It’s like putting together a bunch of small Lego pieces to make a large structure. It gives you a lot of options for customisation.”
For example, someone taking a brisk walk while using a device comparable in size to a fitness tracker could generate five volts of power – which is more than most batteries.
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