Your hot bod could soon power wearable batteries

Long-lasting wearables could one day be powered by your body heat

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new system that can convert the heat given off by your body into usable electricity.

The system uses thermoelectric generators, or TEGs, to create energy using the temperature differential between the wearer's body and the air around them.

Whereas previous attempts at a Matrix-style human battery have used bulky, low-yield heat sinks to store body heat, TEGs generate 20 times as much juice while remaining more comfortable and lightweight.

Using a polymer that can be applied to both skin and fabric, the TEG system can generate up to 20 µW per square centimeter, meaning more coverage could potentially yield even more power, depending on where it's located.

Practical applications

Developed in part with the National Science Foundation's Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (whew), the TEG system was primarily designed for medical implements.

"The goal [...] is to make wearable technologies that can be used for long-term health monitoring, such as devices that track heart health or monitor physical and environmental variables to predict and prevent asthma attacks," says Daryoosh Vashaee, an associate professor at NC State. "To do that, we want to make devices that don't rely on batteries.

It would take some serious refinement, but we would love to see a body heat-powered battery making its way to commercial products, such as a smartwatch that could keep going just by sapping your body temperature. Too bad we'd probably also have to build up a sweat first, huh?

Top Image Credit: North Carolina State University

Parker Wilhelm
Parker Wilhelm is a freelance writer for TechRadar. He likes to tinker in Photoshop and talk people's ears off about Persona 4.