Skip to main content

Next-gen wearable devices might sip your sweat, use it to generate electricity

sweat-powered wearable
Eduard Bonnin Turina/123RF
One of the things that need to improve about wearables is their battery life. A device like the Apple Watch may be the gold standard in its product category, but until users no longer need to take it off at night and remember to charge it, a certain percentage of would-be users will either skip buying it or default on wearing it.

From true wireless charging to wearable battery packs, we have heard about a few possible solutions to the problem. A new piece of research by the University of California, San Diego, may have the best answer yet, however: Charge devices through the sweat of their wearers.

With that in mind, they demonstrated a new sweat-powered wearable that can be used to power a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio for a couple of days, based on an adhesive wearable strip smart sensor that is just 2cm in width.

“We took conventional biofuel cell technology where enzymatic reactions of a biofuel are used to generate power and translated it to our skin,” Jonathan Wang, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Nanoengineering, told Digital Trends. “Here we use sweat as source for biofuel and developed a conformal stretchable skin-worn biofuel cell that harvests energy from sweat lactate.”

The proof-of-concept shows off technology that is significantly more efficient than previous demos of similar technology. A paper describing the work, published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, notes that this research represents the highest power density recorded by a wearable biofuel cell to date.

Wang said that the goal is to power mobile wearable devices on the run. Current work on the project, he said, involves further increasing the power and integration for day-to-day wearable applications.

It’s definitely a neat concept, and we look forward to hearing how it advances. There are, of course, questions —  such as how much sweat would need to be harvested to power a more advanced wearable device that needed more energy than just a BLE radio, and how feasible this is. It would also be interesting to find out whether such this would only be limited to fitness-oriented wearables, whereby users are consciously trying to break a sweat, or whether it would be possible to harvest the necessary sweat from regular physical exertion.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
The best portable power stations
EcoFlow DELTA 2 on table at campsite for quick charging.

Affordable and efficient portable power is a necessity these days, keeping our electronic devices operational while on the go. But there are literally dozens of options to choose from, making it abundantly difficult to decide which mobile charging solution is best for you. We've sorted through countless portable power options and came up with six of the best portable power stations to keep your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets functioning while living off the grid.
The best overall: Jackery Explorer 1000

Jackery has been a mainstay in the portable power market for several years, and today, the company continues to set the standard. With three AC outlets, two USB-A, and two USB-C plugs, you'll have plenty of options for keeping your gadgets charged.

Read more
CES 2023: HD Hyundai’s Avikus is an A.I. for autonomous boat and marine navigation
Demonstration of NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

This content was produced in partnership with HD Hyundai.
Autonomous vehicle navigation technology is certainly nothing new and has been in the works for the better part of a decade at this point. But one of the most common forms we see and hear about is the type used to control steering in road-based vehicles. That's not the only place where technology can make a huge difference. Autonomous driving systems can offer incredible benefits to boats and marine vehicles, too, which is precisely why HD Hyundai has unveiled its Avikus AI technology -- for marine and watercraft vehicles.

More recently, HD Hyundai participated in the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, to demo its NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system for recreational boats. The name mashes together the words "neuron" and "boat" and is quite fitting since the Avikus' A.I. navigation tech is a core component of the solution, it will handle self-recognition, real-time decisions, and controls when on the water. Of course, there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes with HD Hyundai's autonomous navigation solution, which we'll dive into below -- HD Hyundai will also be introducing more about the tech at CES 2023.

Read more
This AI cloned my voice using just three minutes of audio
acapela group voice cloning ad

There's a scene in Mission Impossible 3 that you might recall. In it, our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tackles the movie's villain, holds him at gunpoint, and forces him to read a bizarre series of sentences aloud.

"The pleasure of Busby's company is what I most enjoy," he reluctantly reads. "He put a tack on Miss Yancy's chair, and she called him a horrible boy. At the end of the month, he was flinging two kittens across the width of the room ..."

Read more