Temporary tattoos powered by sweat may one day charge your smartphone

temporary tattoos powered by sweat tattoo lactate battery
Runner rejoice! Scientists have created a temporary tattoo that can act as a battery and is charged by your sweat. It may sound gross, but this could be the solution to all our wearable charging woes.

Researchers at UC San Diego may not have intended to create a small biobattery, but that’s what they ended up with after experiments on a better way to read lactate levels took a different direction. Initially, the researchers wanted to find a way to measure lactate, the acid that builds up in your muscles when you exercise.

Related: Organic power: Nokia charges Lumia 930 with 800 potatoes and apples

When you exert yourself during tough exercise, your body is forced to create more energy once you run out of it.  That energy creation process is called glycolysis, but it has a byproduct called lactate, which isn’t so great for your muscles. Scientists can measure lactate to analyze the progress of a workout. Before the experiment started, lactate levels could only be measured by blood tests, according to Phys.org.

lactate battery tattoo

The researchers decided that since lactate can be measured in a person’s sweat, too, they would make a film to place on the users’ skin to measure the amounts of acid produced by various levels of exercise. They embedded a lactate sensor patch into a temporary tattoo, so that they could keep tabs on the acid without having to prick athletes with a needle.

Then, the scientists realized that during the process of measuring lactate, they had to remove electrons and doing so effectively made half of a battery cell. Once they realized that they were on to something great, the researchers added a cathode to complete the battery. After all, the anode already had the necessary enzyme to remove the electrons from lactate that can then be sent to the cathode, which contains a molecule that takes the electrons.

Related: Body heat harvesters, flexible screens, and more wearable tech revolutions

In a YouTube video explaining the process, UC nanoengineering professor Dr. Joseph Wang says, “We came up with this idea of harvesting energy from the body in a non-invasive manner.” The resulting prototype is what Wang calls”the first example of a biofuel cell that harvests energy from body fluid.”

Not only does the temporary tattoo offer battery power, it also tracks lactate levels, so users can tell how hard they’ve exercised. Currently, the researchers can’t get the tattoos to generate that much power, but they say they are working on increasing the amount, so as to power mobile devices and wearables in the future. Although it’s clearly just a prototype at this stage, the UC San Diego researchers appear to have stumbled across something with great potential.

Health & Fitness

JLABS injects some tech into the medical industry

Innovating health care is expensive, risky, and complicated legally. One company is trying to remove these barriers with clever and altruistic approach.
Mobile

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Gaming

Everything we know about 'Anthem', including new details on Javelin classes

BioWare announced an upcoming action role-playing game called 'Anthem' at EA Play 2017. Here's everything we know about the game so far, including gameplay, DLC, and when you'll be able to play it.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Mobile

Tumblr for iOS vanishes from App Store, possibly due to inappropriate content

Tumblr for iOS is currently only allowing searches in Safe Mode, and it is not available on the App Store. The speculation is that the app's disappearance had something to do with inappropriate content.
Mobile

How to choose the best MicroSD cards for your smartphone or tablet

If you need some extra storage space and your device supports it, then a MicroSD card is an obvious place to start. Here, we look at what to consider and suggest some of the best MicroSD cards for your smartphone.
Mobile

Common Kindle Fire problems, and how to fix them

Is your Amazon tablet giving you grief? Is it refusing to behave the way you expect? Take a deep breath -- everything will be fine. Here are some widely reported Kindle Fire problems and a few possible solutions to go with them.
Deals

All the best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…
Mobile

Barnes & Noble’s new Nook tablet now has its own keyboard cover and dock

Barnes & Noble recently launched its largest mobile device to date, the Nook Tablet 10.1. Now the company has released a couple of accessories designed exclusively for the new Nook: A keyboard cover and a charging dock.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for November 2018

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Deals

Save up to $850 with the best smartphone deals for November 2018

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $850.
Mobile

Apple applies for a patent on a wrap-around iPhone display

Previously, Apple was awarded a patent for a foldable phone, and the company has been rumored to be working on one. But it's not at all similar to other concepts. Here's everything we know about a folding iPhone.