It's the stuff of science fiction: using your own body to power your electronics. And yet it is finally here.
Researchers at CU Boulder have developed a new, low-cost wearable device that is stretchy enough that you can wear it like a ring, a bracelet, or any other accessory and it transforms the human body into a battery.
“In the future, we want to be able to power your wearable electronics without having to include a battery,” said in a statement Jianliang Xiao, senior author of the new paper and an associate professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at CU Boulder.
His new devices can generate about one volt of energy for every 0.155 sq in (1 sq cm) of skin space, enough to power electronics such as watches. The wearables tap into a person’s natural body heat, using thermoelectric generators to convert the body’s internal temperature into electricity. Even better, the device can heal itself when damaged and is fully recyclable.
If your device tears, you can simply pinch it back together again. And if you no longer want to use the device, you can dunk it into a special solution that will separate out the electronic components and dissolve the polyimine base (not to be confused by polyamine). This means that every one of those ingredients can then be reused.
“We’re trying to make our devices as cheap and reliable as possible, while also having as close to zero impact on the environment as possible,” Xiao said.
How does it work? Imagine you are exercising. Naturally, your body will heat up. Xiao’s device will then capture that flow of energy and convert it into electricity.
“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,” Xiao said. “The nice thing about our thermoelectric device is that you can wear it, and it provides you with constant power.”