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.

03/02/2012


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...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
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.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

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

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.