Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new system that can convert the heat given off by your body into usable electricity.
The system uses thermoelectric generators, or TEGs, to create energy using the temperature differential between the wearer's body and the air around them.
Whereas previous attempts at a Matrix-style human battery have used bulky, low-yield heat sinks to store body heat, TEGs generate twenty times as much juice while remaining much more comfortable and lightweight than heat sinks.
Using a polymer that can be applied to both skin and fabric, the TEG system can generate up to 20 µW per square centimeter - meaning more coverage could potentially yield even more power, depending on where it's located.
Where could this technology be applied?
Developed in part with the National Science Foundation's Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (whew), the TEG system was designed primarily with medical implements in mind.
"The goal [...] is to make wearable technologies that can be used for long-term health monitoring, such as devices that track heart health or monitor physical and environmental variables to predict and prevent asthma attacks," says Daryoosh Vashaee, an associate professor at NC State. "To do that, we want to make devices that don't rely on batteries.
While it would take some serious refinement, we could also see a body heat-powered system making its way to more commercial products. Imagine a smartwatch that could keep its battery life up just by sapping your body temperature - too bad we'd probably also have to build up a sweat first.
Top Image Credit: North Carolina State University