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Lightweight, Wearable Tech Efficiently Converts Body Heat to Electricity


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Thermoelectric generator-embedded t-shirt (left) and armband (right).

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new design for harvesting body heat and converting it into electricity for use in wearable electronics.

Credit: NCSU News

North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers have developed a new design for harvesting body heat and converting it into electricity for use in wearable electronics as part of the U.S. National Science Foundation's Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST).

The lightweight prototypes conform to the shape of the body and generate more electricity than previous heat-harvesting technologies. The researchers also identified the upper arm as the optimal area of the body for heat harvesting.

The new design includes a layer of thermally conductive material that rests on the skin and spreads out the heat, and the material is topped with a polymer to prevent heat from dissipating to the outside air. The design forces the heat to pass through a tiny, centrally located thermoelectric generator (TEG); heat that is not converted into electricity passes through the TEG into an outer layer of thermally conductive materials, which rapidly dissipates the heat.

"The goal of ASSIST 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 NCSU professor Daryoosh Vashaee.

From NCSU News
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