The human body uses energy to constantly regulate its body temperature – although some of the heat produced is simply lost through our skin. American scientists have now developed a way to convert that body heat into electricity.
Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a new low-cost wearable that turns the human body into a biological battery. The device that the researchers reveal in the professional magazine Science Advances, is so stretchy that you can wear it as a ring or a bracelet.
Self-healing and recyclable
The high-tech gadget does this via small so-called thermoelectric generators that can convert the natural temperature of the human body into electricity. Plus, the wearable is self-healing, which means it can repair itself while you move. If the device breaks, it can bond itself back together in minutes.
“In the future, we want to be able to power your portable electronics without the need for a battery,” said author Jianliang Xiao of the University of Colorado Boulder.
The device can generate about 1 volt of energy for every square centimeter of skin, which is enough to power products such as digital watches or fitness trackers. The fact that the wearable is fully recyclable is also a plus.
Constant power supply
“Every time you use a battery, you deplete that battery and you will eventually have to replace it,” says Xiao. “The great thing about our thermoelectric device is that you can wear it and it provides you with constant power.”
According to Xiao and his team, someone taking a brisk walk can generate about 5 volts of electricity with a wearable the size of a typical sweatband. That’s more than what many watch batteries can generate. The researchers hope to be able to market the device within five to ten years.