Eccentric Energy: You’ve got the power!
6th June 2019
Our Eccentric Energy post for June 2019 focuses on two of the ways that every human can contribute to generating electricity.
Read more below:
Hot – and healthier – bodies
Using body heat as a source of energy – thermoelectric generation – works because there’s usually a difference in temperature between our bodies and the air around us. If a person’s wearing a thermoelectric generator (TEG), it can use this difference to create energy.
North Carolina State University researchers are prototyping a new TEG that’s lighter and more comfortable to wear than earlier devices while generating more power. Although they’ve discovered that the best location for harvesting heat was the upper arm, the team has also incorporated the TEG into T-shirts.
One of the researchers’ ambitions is to develop medical devices (e.g. health monitors) that rely upon the patient’s own body heat rather than on batteries. This is because the former offers a continuous source of electricity while the latter can malfunction or lose power over time.
Static moving forward
If you’ve ever received a small electric shock from furniture, clothing or even other people, you’ve experienced the triboelectric effect.
Now, the nanoscience research group at the Georgia Institute of Technology have create a stretchy, wearable device that uses this effect and human movement to generate power. Although this skin-like triboelectric nanogenerator (STENG) only generates a few watts of power per square metre at present, the scientists are optimistic about applying the principle.
That’s because the triboelectric effect is universal and can apply to any two materials, including papers, silk, fibres and wood – although polymers tend to be the best. This spectrum of choice means that developers could, for example, use STENG within carpet or curtain fabric as part of a home or office security system.
MATRIX makes sense of time
Founded by a pair of Caltech PhD chemists in 2011, MATRIX Industries is also exploring the power of thermoelectric generation – under the strapline “the people who make heat cool”.
One of the team’s hippest developments is the PowerWatch, a rugged-looking sports-oriented device that’s powered from the heat generated by your wrist. A newer version, PowerWatch2, also has the capacity to draw power from the sun’s rays and includes a power meter to record the energy the wearer produces. It also picks up the wrist’s pulse and monitors time spent and calories consumed – as well as having GPS mapping – to allow users to track and compare their performances.
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