One of the biggest wearable bugbears, in my opinion, is the constant need to charge a smartwatch or fitness tracker every few days. Luckily, a new research project from North Carolina State University has shown a possible way to charge wearables without having to take them off everyday.
The researchers, led by associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, Daryoosh Vashaee, developed a new design for harvesting body heat and converting it into electricity.
“Wearable thermoelectric generators (TEGs) generate electricity by making use of the temperature differential between your body and the ambient air,” said Vashaee. “Previous approaches either made use of heat sinks—which are heavy, stiff and bulky—or were able to generate only one microwatt or less of power per centimeter squared (µW/cm2). Our technology generates up to 20 µW/cm2 and doesn’t use a heat sink, making it lighter and much more comfortable.”
NCSU integrated the technology into a t-shirt, which provide 16 µW/cm2 when the wearer is active. That could open the door to health tracking inside smart clothes, powered directly from a user’s activity.