In what sounds uncomfortably like a scenario from The Matrix, a startup in Corvallis, Oregon, has developed a small chip that can turn body heat into electric energy. The chip, which absorbs heat directly from the skin, channels energy through a thermoelectric generator that converts it into electric power. In future, the chip will enable us to power and recharge our handheld and wearable electronic devices with our own bodies.
Developed by Perpetua Power, it's called TEGwear Technology. Similar to the way that solar cells work to extract energy from sunlight, body-heat absorbed by TEGwear excites electrons and optimizes this energy. It could power body-worn medical, fitness, and safety related electronics. Each single, square-inch TEGwear chip generates up to three volts.
Originally developed using technology licensed from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (a Department of Energy research lab in Richland, Washington), TEGwear-powered devices are still in development and won't hit the market until 2014. But this ultimate clean tech has a whole host of potential applications, from mobile health to national security. The company will demo the device on a new Swatch Touch watch at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month. In addition, it has a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a prototype wristband to track the whereabouts of people with Alzheimer's as well as funding from Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Division to power wearable devices used for surveillance operations. It's also partnered with several private companies to develop body-powered smartphone accessories (like headsets), health-monitoring devices (such as wearable heart-rate monitors), and military applications (like monitoring a soldier's vital signs and location while on a combat mission).
The added bonus of using body-powered devices? They eliminate the toxic waste generated by the heavy metals used in the billions of batteries we currently use — and toss — each year. In other words, your body heat is good, clean energy.
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