Body heat powers devices

A new technology called Power Felt is a thermoelectric device that converts body heat into an electrical current which soon could create enough energy to make a call just by touching it.


ISSSourceA new technology called Power Felt is a thermoelectric device that converts body heat into an electrical current which soon could create enough energy to make a call just by touching it.

Power Felt consists of tiny carbon nanotubes locked up in flexible plastic fibers and made to feel like fabric. The technology, developed at the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University, uses temperature differences – room temperature versus body temperature – to create a charge.

“We waste a lot of energy in the form of heat,” said Corey Hewitt, a researcher and Wake Forest graduate student. “For example, recapturing a car’s energy waste could help improve fuel mileage and power the radio, air conditioning or navigation system. Generally, thermoelectrics are an underdeveloped technology for harvesting energy, yet there is so much opportunity.”

Potential uses for Power Felt include lining automobile seats to boost battery power and service electrical needs, insulating pipes or collecting heat under roof tiles to lower gas or electric bills, lining clothing or sports equipment to monitor performance, or wrapping IV or wound sites to better track patients’ medical needs.

“Imagine it in an emergency kit, wrapped around a flashlight, powering a weather radio, charging a prepaid cell phone,” said David Carroll, director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. “Power Felt could provide relief during power outages or accidents.”

Cost has prevented thermoelectrics from wider usage in consumer products. Standard thermoelectric devices use a much more efficient compound called bismuth telluride to turn heat into power in products including mobile refrigerators and CPU coolers, but researchers said it can cost $1,000 per kilogram. Like silicon, they liken Power Felt’s affordability to demand in volume and think someday it could cost only $1 to add to a cell phone cover.

Currently, 72 stacked layers in the fabric yield about 140 nanowatts of power. The team is evaluating several ways to add more nanotube layers and make them even thinner to boost the power output.

There is more work to do before Power Felt is ready for market. “I imagine being able to make a jacket with a completely thermoelectric inside liner that gathers warmth from body heat, while the exterior remains cold from the outside temperature,” Hewitt said. “If the Power Felt is efficient enough, you could potentially power an iPod, which would be great for distance runners. It’s definitely within reach.”

Wake Forest is in talks with investors to produce Power Felt commercially.

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Make Big Data and Industrial Internet of Things work for you, 2017 Engineers' Choice Finalists, Avoid control design pitfalls, Managing IIoT processes
Engineering Leaders Under 40; System integration improving packaging operation; Process sensing; PID velocity; Cybersecurity and functional safety
Mobile HMI; PID tuning tips; Mechatronics; Intelligent project management; Cybersecurity in Russia; Engineering education; Road to IANA
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Flexible offshore fire protection; Big Data's impact on operations; Bridging the skills gap; Identifying security risks
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance

(copy 5)

click me