One of the more prevalent drawbacks of wearable devices such as smartwatches is battery or, more precisely, the need to replenish the juice every so often. But that won’t be the case for too long as the researchers over at KAIST may have found a solution for this problem and it comes in form of a tiny and flexible sheet of glass fabric that generates power by using the human body heat.
Thermoelectric Generators, the technology used by KAIST researchers on their prototype, has been around since ages. However, previous attempts at TE Generators were only either flexible but generates less power, or bulky but produces more electricity.
So in order for their invention to be more plausible for use for wearable devices, Professor Byung Jin Cho and his associates needed to come up with a solution that merges the best of both worlds; flexibility and efficiency.
They did just that by screen-printing their home-made concoction made out of thermoelectric materials (Bismuth Telluride and Antimony Telluride) into a tiny piece of glass fabric. The end result is a small and lightweight strip of glass fabric infused with both organic and inorganic TE Generators which can produce approximately 40mW at a normal skin temperature of 31° Celsius.
Now 40mW isn’t going to be enough to keep display-touting smartwatches awake for too long, let alone the power-hungry smartphones and tablets. But Professor Cho and his team definitely have something good going here and, given the right funding and time, they can probably improve the power output on their future builds which would hopefully eliminate the need to charge smartwatches and similar wearable devices on a daily basis.