Purdue researcher wants to use body heat to charge your wearables: BTN LiveBIG

Purdue researcher wants to use body heat to charge your wearables: BTN LiveBIG

Count the number of Internet-enabled devices you’re wearing right now. Consider how much power it takes to run them.

Now imagine you could recharge them with your body heat.

Kazuaki Yazawa, a Purdue University research associate professor has developed thermoelectric semiconductor strings that could be woven into fabric or other surfaces that generate heat and convert that energy into electrical power. Converting the energy from heat to electricity would also provide a cooling process that is useful in various high-heat environments or in the casings of electrical components.

While the concept is available for license, the design is still considered theoretical until it’s validated by further research.

As Yazawa’s history in this field shows, there’s deeper science here than just the ability to charge your FitBit by wearing a sweater. Much of Yazawa’s work in the past several years involved harnessing wasted heat and either turning that energy into alternate power or using it to cool the electronic devices that generate it.

Last year, Yazawa co-authored a paper that looked at harnessing solar energy for use during peak times via thermal storage.

The new selective solar absorber and reflector is the lynchpin of this approach and would perform two crucial roles: increase efficiency by reflecting visible light but absorbing near-infrared photons, and increase the temperature of the stored heat, which is then harnessed as electricity when it is needed throughout the course of the day.

Back in 2011, Yazawa examined methods of measuring the increased heat that comes from smaller, more powerful electronic devices. This process is known as “ultrafast submicron thermoreflectance imaging.”

The romantic view of scientific breakthroughs is that they come from nowhere, a by-product of some “Eureka!” moment that reveals a previously hidden truth. But as Yazawa’s work demonstrates, it takes years of studying one problem and then the next and then the next for those breakthroughs to occur.

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