No sweat! Lightweight, wearable tech converts body heat to electricity

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CHARLIE HECK: Whoo! How much
electricity have you created? I didn’t think you would start
without me. JORDAN D’ERI: Eye on the prize!
We are the champions! If you’re not first… CHARLIE HECK: Wait, Jordan what
is all this hooked up to? JORDAN D’ERI: And time! Oh. I
don’t have anything hooked up yet, this is just a trial “run,”
why don’t you get to the science part and I’ll log my
time, let’s see here…ok, ok, run number 4, Jordan, excellent
vitals, top notch athlete… CHARLIE HECK: Wow! Alright,
let’s jump right in. Researchers at North Carolina State
University have developed a new design for harvesting body heat
and converting it into electricity for use in wearable
electronics. JORDAN D’ERI: Wearable
thermoelectric generators or TEGs generate electricity by
making use of the temperature differential between your body
and the ambient air. 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 square
centimeter. CHARLIE HECK: These
experimental prototypes are lightweight, conform to the
shape of the body and can generate far more electricity
than previous lightweight heat harvesting technologies. JORDAN D’ERI: The TEG arm band
can generate up to 20 microwatts of power per square centimeter
and the entire system is thin and flexible. In this prototype,
the TEG is only one centimeter squared but the researchers say
they can easily make it larger, depending on the device’s power
needs. CHARLIE HECK: The team was also
able to incorporate the TEGs into t-shirts. While not as
powerful as the armbands, these t-shirt TEGs are capable of
generating 6 microwatts of power per square centimeter and up to
16 microwatts of power per square centimeter if the person
is running. JORDAN D’ERI: Their goal is to
make wearable technologies that can be used for long term health
monitoring, like devices that can track heart health or
monitor physical and environmental variables to
predict and prevent asthma attacks. So, would you say that
this is a STEP in the right direction for battery-free
wearable tech? CHARLIE HECK: Ugh, I guess!
What are you even monitoring, these aren’t hooked up to
anything? JORDAN D’ERI: I’m training for
the game of life, Charlie. CHARLIE HECK: The board game? ♪MUSIC♪

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