Engineering 101

Wearable Device Makes the Body a Battery

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder developed a new, low-cost wearable device that transforms the human body into a biological battery. Published in the journal Science Advances, the device stretches to wear as a ring or bracelet that touches the skin. It taps into the wearer’s natural heat to convert the body’s internal temperature into electricity.

The devices can generate approximately 1 volt of energy for every square centimeter of skin space. This is less voltage per area than most existing batteries, but enough to power such electronics as watches or fitness trackers.

This solution heals itself when damaged and is fully recyclable. The innovation consists of a base made of a stretchy material called polyimine with a series of thin thermoelectric chips stuck into that base, connecting them all with liquid metal wires. 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.

Researchers admit that there are still kinks to work out in the design, but anticipate the devices could appear on the market in five to 10 years.

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