Wearable thermoelectric generators might power future IoT devices

High performance wearable thermoelectric generators announced TEG Biological battery human IoT devices
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Researchers at CU Boulder University have developed a new wearable device that can transform your body temperature into electric energy. This new tech allows the human body to act like a biological battery, something which has been possible in sci-fi movies only. It is a significant innovation as rechargeable batteries have become an integral part of today’s innovation. Let’s learn more about the new wearable thermoelectric generators technology in more detail.

Wearable Thermoelectric Generators for IoT

The new wearable device is based on thermoelectric generators. It is a small, lightweight, and stretchy product. Developers are looking to use this stretching property of the device to mold it into other accessories like a bracelet that is constantly in touch with human skin. The thermoelectric generators in the wearable device convert internal body temperature into electric energy.

As of now, researchers have been able to generate up to 1 volt of energy per centimeter area of the skin. This may not sound like much but this could potentially power future accessories like smartwatches and fitness trackers. And that is what the researchers are trying to achieve.

Wearable TEG Ring
Source: Xiao Lab

The biological battery technology is made up of polyimine which is known to be stretchy. It forms the base of the device. Series of thin thermoelectric chips are then integrated into the base. These chips are connected to each other using liquid metal wires. The final result is a PCB-like device in a ring-like form factor. Researchers claim that their design puts less stress on the chips as the chips are very brittle.

“Just don’t tell the robots. We don’t want them getting any ideas” – Xiao

Previous Attempts

It is not the first prototype of its kind as there have been several attempts at building similar devices in the past. Previously, Jianliang Xiao, who leads the research, came up with an electronic skin. However, it required an external power source to work. The latest innovation, on the other hand, doesn’t need one. It’s stretchy and has the ability to heal itself.

Working

When we do an intensive task, our bodies generate heat. This excessive heat is transferred to the environment to maintain the normal body temperature. The new device captures the heat and transforms it into electricity instead.

Advantages

It’s a known fact that all batteries degrade over time. Users need to keep investing in new batteries at a regular interval. However, this could change with the new self-healing battery technology. If the device breaks, users can tie the two ends back by pinching them together.

Wearable Thermoelectric Generators Mechanical Properties

Similarly, researchers claim that the new tech is fully recyclable and thus is a cleaner source of energy. When the device is no longer in use, users can dip into a special solution that will cause the polyimine base to separate from the chips. Both products can then be repurposed for different uses.

Scalability

Researchers believe that they can increase the power by adding more generators. Xiao even compares the process with Lego blocks. By combining smaller thermoelectric chips they can make a larger structure which will facilitate customization.

Wearable Thermoelectric Generators Availability

Researchers still need to work on the design and scalability to make the thermoelectric wearable ready for the market. The first step is to generate up to 5V that could power a modern fitness band. The research team predicts that wearable with their thermoelectric generators can hit the market anywhere between 5 and 10 years.

Smart Technology Availability (Expected)
Wearable with Thermoelectric generators 2026 – 2031
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