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Thermoelectric Generator Harvests Renewable Energy, Yours

KAIST Could Capture Our Own Renewable Energy
KAIST Could Capture Our Own Renewable Energy

As pointed out in a famous movie, human beings generate a lot of extra heat. This renewable energy source could be harvested, hopefully not to power some robot-horde, but perhaps some of tomorrow’s wearable devices.

Take, for example, the smartwatch, a wireless extension of the smartphone, which not only tells time and date, but can tell you what you should be doing at your next time and date, as well as the weather for that time and date, among other things. As with all portable electronic devices, however, they need to be powered, somehow, which means lithium-ion batteries and charging stations. According to one study, the average smartphone uses as much energy as some household appliances, which is why a renewable energy source would be such a great addition to the portable electronic device revolution.

Renewable energy is becoming more a part of our energy mix, at least on a grid scale, but what about on a personal scale? Maybe we can’t install a solar panel on our roof to power our laptop, smartphone, and smartwatch, but what about another renewable energy source, ourselves? Because we are warm-blooded mammals, and our skin is not exactly well-insulated, so our bodies keep pumping out body heat. What a perfect power source for a smartwatch, which is worn directly against the skin!

Researchers at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) have developed a wearable renewable energy source, a thermoelectric-generator wristband. It doesn’t generate a lot of electricity, but just enough to extend the life of a smartwatch’s onboard lithium-ion battery. My guess is that the thermoelectric generator would be made part of the smartwatch’s wristband. Smartwatches are one thing, but I’m wondering if this technology could be adapted for other low-power devices, such as implanted medical devices, so they’d never require surgery to replace batteries or an inductive charging coil. Could a pacemaker or neurostimulator run on the patient’s own renewable energy source?

Image © KAIST

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