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.

Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Cars

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Emerging Tech

This unusual nature-inspired robot is equally at home on land or in the water

This intriguing, nature-inspired robot may look unusual, but it's impressively capable of moving on both land and water without problem. Heck, it can even travel on ice if necessary.
Emerging Tech

This cryptocurrency wallet for kids isn’t nearly as stupid as it sounds

So you’ve taught your 6-year-old child to read, write, and play nice with others. What’s next? Give them a base understanding of cryptocurrency, of course. This Kickstarter aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

Virgin Galactic’s latest test flight takes it to the edge of space

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has successfully carried out its fourth powered flight in Mojave, California. It was the company's most ambitious test flight yet -- and bodes well for the future.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

There’s a giant EMP blaster in New Mexico. Don’t worry, it’s here to protect us

An electromagnetic pulse has the potential to disable virtually all electronics within a large area. To help protect against such a threat is a new, friendly EMP emitter. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

There’s a new lab-grown meat startup on the block — and it has a secret weapon

Aleph Farms is developing lab-grown steaks with the same flavor, shape, texture, and structure as the real thing using beef cells isolated from living cows. Coming soon to a store near you?
Smart Home

This A.I.-enabled tech brings cutting-edge automation to grocery stores

Takeoff Technologies is working to make grocery deliveries fast, accurate, and convenient using A.I.-enabled technology to augment robotic grocery orders that can be completed in minutes.