The biggest concern of our life today is clean energy. Researchers have been trying to develop ways from decades. Wind, tidal, and solar have become more of conventional power sources that are widely used today. Scientists from Purdue University developed a thermoelectric fabric that harnesses human body heat and turns it into electricity to power various IoT devices.
An associate professor, Kazuaki Yazawa at Discovery Park’s Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University has developed a thermoelectric fabric made up of semiconductor strings, which extracts body heat and turns it into small amounts of electricity.
The semiconductor strings are integrated into the fabric and absorb heat from any direct contact point and convert it into electrical power. Such a fabric has a wide variety of applications.
The first that comes to anyone’s mind would be clothing covering the entire body, serving as a very good heat source. It could be used in wearable technology and many medical and athletic applications. The material could also be wrapped around objects like coffee cups and chimneys that otherwise radiate the heat, wasting it away.
Yazawa announced,”Heart monitors, respiration and perspiration monitors are very useful for the elderly or those recovering from a trauma. There also is a huge market for wearables in sports to optimize human performance. If you have a patient or an athlete who is overheating, real-time information of their vitals could be used by coaches and medical professionals to better monitor and treat their players or patients”.
“These types of devices need energy to be actively charged so they can be used continually. Anything that takes heat and converts it to another form of energy is also providing a cooling effect. Therefore, this technology also could provide a continuous cooling treatment. This could be especially beneficial from a sports or military perspective. The flexible substrate could be applied to undergarments and when athletes are running the technology could help give that little bit of charge.”
No matter how perfect it sounds, it comes with a drawback, and so does this thermoelectric fabric. The human body only produces a low heat flux, thus requiring a thicker layer of thermoelectric elements for generating a considerable amount of power.
A piece of fabric this thick won’t be flexible enough to be molded to any shape, will restrict body movement, causing discomfort. To solve the thickness problem, Yazawa suggested a solution saying, “Lengthening the threads and using a unique combination of insulation makes the generator more flat and manageable.”
If it works out and the technology proves to be commercially viable, the need for batteries in wearable may eventually be eliminated.
You can also read more about this latest research here.