Research breakthrough brings body-heat-powered wearables a step closer

research breakthrough brings body heat powered wearables a step closer smartwatch

One of the greatest challenges facing tech companies as they seek to establish themselves in the fledgling wearable tech market is creating devices with a decent battery life while at the same time keeping them compact and light.

Up to now, many manufacturers have been touting devices that spend much of their time in sleep mode to prolong battery life, and while improvements have certainly been made with conventional battery technology over recent years, groundbreaking research carried out by a team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) means we could be on the verge of a revolutionary change in the way we power our wearable tech.

Although the idea of generating power from body heat is nothing new, the KAIST research team, headed by electrical engineering professor Byung Jin Cho, appears to have brought the concept one step closer to reality with the development of a patch-like ‘glass fabric’ thermoelectric (TE) generator that rests on a person’s skin, converting their body heat into electricity.

According to Phys.org, KAIST’s creation is of particular interest as it improves on current TE generators in two ways. Existing organic-based TE generators, for example, are flexible but have a disappointing power output, while inorganic-based TE generators have better performance but are rigid and bulky. KAIST’s work, however, has produced a product that’s not only light and flexible, but also minimizes thermal energy loss while maximizing power output.

kaist 2
KAIST’s light and flexible glass-fabric TE generator.

“For our case, the glass fabric itself serves as the upper and lower substrates of a TE generator, keeping the inorganic TE materials in between,” Byung Jin Cho explained. “This is quite a revolutionary approach to design a generator. In so doing, we were able to significantly reduce the weight of our generator, which is an essential element for wearable electronics.”

While the team clearly sees a future for the technology in wearables, it’s likely to be a while before we see it incorporated into our body-based gadgets, meaning that for now at least we’ll have to continue keeping a watchful eye on those fast-disappearing battery bars.

For a more detailed look at how the team developed its TE, check out Phys.org’s article here.

[Image: Alexey Boldin / Shutterstock]

Emerging Tech

Stallone in Terminator 2? How one deepfake prankster is changing cinema history

Ever wanted to see The Shining with Jim Carrey instead of Jack Nicholson? How about Stallone in Terminator 2: Judgement Day instead of everyone's favorite governator? Thanks to deepfakes, it's now possible -- just ask YouTuber Ctrl Shift…
Emerging Tech

Professional poker players no match for A.I. in six-player Texas Hold ’em

Poker AI Pluribus destroyed professional players in Texas Hold 'em. The bot won an average of $5 per hand with winnings of $1,000 per hour, with strategies that were very different to how humans played the game.
Emerging Tech

Russia launches X-ray observatory capable of locating thousands of black holes

Russia has finally launched its powerful X-ray observatory, Spektr-RG, after a delay caused by faulty batteries on board the spacecraft. The launch took place at 5:30 a.m. PT on Saturday, July 13, taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Emerging Tech

See a gargantuan dust storm covering the north pole of Mars

A dust storm around Mars' north pole has been imaged by the Mars Express orbiter. Localized dust storms are common on Mars, but occasionally one expands into a planet-wide event like the one which caused the demise of the Opportunity rover.
Emerging Tech

The Very Large Telescope captures the beautiful remnants of a dying star

The VLT has captured a beautiful cosmic object, the planetary nebula named Abell 24. Located in constellation of Canis Minor (The Lesser Dog), it is a swirl of dust and gas which is illuminated by the core of a dead star.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers have spotted a moon forming around a proto-Jupiter

Astronomers have spotted a young planet with a disk of gas and dust around it which is similar to the one from which the moons of Jupiter were born. The planet PDS 70 b is in the process of forming and is located 370 light-years away.
Emerging Tech

NASA thinks 3D-printing spacecraft parts in orbit will help Moon to Mars mission

NASA funded the demonstration by a small spacecraft named Archinaut One to manufacture and assemble parts while in space. NASA believes that the technology will change future space exploration, including its Moon to Mars initiative.
Emerging Tech

Flyboard Air soars over Paris during France’s national day celebrations

Franky Zapata, the inventor of the jet-powered Flyboard Air, showed off his machine during France's Bastille Day celebrations on Sunday. The impressive display was even given a nod of approval by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Deals

Save with Prime Day deals on DNA kits from Ancestry, 23andme, and Living DNA

Prime Day is a great time to order a DNA kit. Over the years, kits from various providers have been deeply discounted -- and this year's no exception. Kits from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and Living DNA are on sale for as much as half off…
Emerging Tech

Airport hotel builds a full-sized flight simulator into one of its guest rooms

Aviation enthusiasts flying out of Tokyo's Haneda Airport, there's a new hotel room designed just for you. It features a full-sized Boeing 737-800 flight simulator, though you'll have to pay extra to use it.
Emerging Tech

Like the real thing, this robot ant colony is more than the sum of its parts

Researchers have built a robot ant colony, consisting of tiny 10-gram robots which are able to communicate with one another, assign roles among themselves, and work together to complete tasks.
Emerging Tech

Watch live: Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins reflect on the moon landing

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous Apollo 11 mission, NASA will hold a live broadcast featuring a retrospective and presentations by the astronauts involved. You can watch the event live on July 16 at 6:15 a.m. PT.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX finally knows what caused its Crew Dragon capsule to explode

SpaceX and NASA say they finally know what caused its Crew Dragon capsule to explode during an April test of the spacecraft’s thruster system. It's now unlikely that the capsule will be used for crewed spaceflight before the end of the…
Emerging Tech

This compact drone gun can down a rogue quadcopter at 500 meters

The latest drone gun from DroneShield is its most compact yet and can be easily operated with one hand. The DroneGun MkIII can tackle rogue drones up to 500 meters away, using jamming technology to take control of the machine.