Alternate power sources for fitness wearable devices

A tattoo biosensor detects lactate levels during exercise. Photo credit: Joe Wang, ACS

A tattoo biosensor detects lactate levels during exercise.Photo credit: Joe Wang, ACS

Have you ever thought that your body could become the ultimate power source for wearable devices? If not, then it’s time to give your thought process a different twist. Scientists are working towards inventing easily available power sources to benefit fitness wearable technology. Discussed below are few such recent works.

Tattoo bio-battery capable of producing power from sweat

A unique effort by a postdoctoral student Wenzhao Jia and her colleagues in the laboratory of Joseph Wang, D.Sc., at the University of California San Diego, have produced astounding result. They have been able to wring more out of sweat and produce electrical current which can potentially power fitness wearable devices or Smartphone!

The team has designed a temporary tattoo sensor that can respond to lactate, which is found in sweat and in bloodstream. Even more promising is that the team has also developed a bio-battery into the sensor to store the excess electricity. Benefit of having bio-batteries in wearable devices is that these recharge quickly and use renewable energy sources (in the above mentioned case, sweat). Also such batteries are safer. You need not worry about the battery exploding accidentally or leaking toxic chemicals.

As of now, the sensor has given a promising performance by collecting few microwatts of power. In general, a suspended Smartphone pulls around 70 microwatt in 2 minutes which the sweat tattoo sensor is not able to handle just as yet. However, Wang’s team is quite confident of coming up with more efficient energy storage tech in near future.

Body heat to charge future wearable devices

While the above experiment concentrated on monitoring lactate level found in sweat and utilizing it to generate electricity, another promising research work done by Members of the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) aimed at making the most of body heat.

The team has successfully devised a way to convert body heat into electricity. This undoubtedly is going to have a huge impact on how wearable devices are charged. The experiment is done by using an ultra-thin thermoelectric power generator which draws energy from human skin. Since this generator is printed on transparent and stretchable material, this makes it ideal for elastic fitness equipments. The technology can be applied on Smart watches too.

A thermoelectric generator developed as a wristband. Credit: KAIST

A thermoelectric Generator developed as a wristband. Credit: KAIST

KAIST claims that this generator has potential to generate 10 times greater energy than conventional devices. The institute is quite hopeful that this new tech not only benefits the fitness wearable segment but would make its way to cars and airplanes too!

Fitness wearables and human body are already maintaining a steady relationship as buyers have the flexibility to pick up different kinds of tracker to measure heartbeat, body movement, lifestyle changes and even sleeping pattern. Hence in coming days, expect an even more strengthening of bond between wearables and human bodies. As the current research trend indicates, a wearable device which gets charged by body heat or sweat would surely help extend this bond even further. Such innovations would prove to be especially useful for those who need to go through strenuous workout sessions or rigorous sports activities.

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