Recently, we saw University of Colorado researchers come up with a flexible, wearable ring that uses body heat to generate electricity and power small electronic devices. Now, the researchers at the University of California have developed a “wearable microgrid” that can generate electricity from a human body to power low-power electronic devices.
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Electricity From a Human Body?
The “wearable microgrid” developed by the researchers of the University of California San Diego, can store energy harvested from the sweat and body movements of a person. This energy can then be used to power low-power-consuming devices, such as an LCD smartwatch or small fitness trackers.
The technology utilizes three key components to convert body-sweat and body movements into electrical energy. These include sweat-powered biofuel cells, motion-powered triboelectric generators, and supercapacitors to store the energy.
How Does It Work?
To develop the wearable shirt-like product, the researchers screen-printed each of the components onto a shirt. They designed it in such a way so that the components optimize the amount of energy collected. Also, every screen-printed component is washable and flexible.
As for how the technology works, once the user wears the microgrid shirt, the triboelectric generators will get to work as soon as the wearer starts moving. Once the subject starts sweating, the biofuel cells absorb the sweat to generate more electric power and store them in the supercapacitors. This way, the microgrid can power devices even when the subject is at rest.
To test the technology, the researchers put the microgrid shirt on a subject for around 30 minutes. During the time, the subject exercised on a cycling machine or ran for 10 minutes and remained at rest for the rest of 20 minutes and the microgrid was able to power either an LCD-panel wristwatch or a small electrochromic display that changes colors in response to voltage change.
Now, the researchers say, going into the future, the wearable microgrid could be ideal for athletes or people who exercise a lot.