Print 37 comment(s) - last by William Gaatje.. on Dec 30 at 7:22 PM

Researchers at IMEC have developed devices like this wristwatch that harvest human thermal energy and convert it into power for electronics.  (Source: IMEC via Physics Buzz)

The IMEC Heat Scavenger ECG Shirt, powered by human heat energy  (Source: IMEC via Physics Buzz)

The researchers also made this styling headband, which harvests even more electricity.  (Source: IMEC via Physics Buzz)
Hopefully the machines don't get their hands on this one

Vladimir Leonov and Ruud Vullers of the Interuniversity Microelectronics Center in Belgium have built up on past work and devised an ambitious "energy harvester" -- a device that essentially turns humans into big walking batteries.  The research could lead to iPods and cell phones that never lose charge.

The researcher's new body heat-driven power supplies strap on to your forehead as a stylish head band.  From there, they start harvesting your delicious thermal energy and turning it into electricity for the machines.  Who knew homeostasis and electronics could wed so beautifully?

One system's waste is another's treasure --  when the body gives off heat during homeostasis, the process used to maintain a constant body temperature, a gradient is created with the surrounding air (hot by the body and increasingly cold as you travel away from the skin).  Special electronics known as thermopiles can tap into this gradient and convert the energy to electricity.

The researchers demonstrated an electrocardiogram (ECG) dress shirt that looked pretty stylish and kept a monitor on your vitals to boot -- all without ever needing a battery.  For those who aren't digging the headband, the researchers showed off a little bling -- a gold watch that serves as both a heat harvester and a stylish timepiece.

The downside is that human body heat energy generation isn't very efficient -- so either your army of robots needs to be very ultra-low voltage, or you need a lot of humans to power it.  The researchers are working on developing ultra-low voltage (ULV) devices to exploit the bit of energy they manage to squeeze out.  Why not just use a tiny battery in lieu of the pricey thermo-electrics?  Because that would be plain old-fashioned, of course -- or at least that's the researchers' apparent line of thinking.

The new research can be found here, reported in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

The idea of harvesting the kinetic and thermal waste energy produced from the human body is nothing new.  For over a century self-winding watches have harvested wrist motion to never need a battery or old-fashioned hand-winding.  Researchers are currently investigating putting similar energy harvesting devices on the wrist, hips, shoes soles, and potentially in backpacks.  The army is looking to use such piezoelectric generators in its next generation of packs to help power soldiers' ULV electronics.  Scientists have even devised tiny blood-stream generators to harvest the kinetic energy of the bloodstream to power nanoelectronics.

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RE: Car research already there
By PitViper007 on 12/24/2009 11:42:53 AM , Rating: 5
They do. It's called a turbo-charger. Specifically the turbo compresses the air going into the combustion chamber resulting in a hotter burn which equals more horsepower. The turbo is powered by the engine's own exhaust.

RE: Car research already there
By Souka on 12/24/2009 4:22:10 PM , Rating: 2
I was refering to the technology being discussed by this article, using heat to generate power.

I think it's called thermocoupling, but regardless, the car exaust idea isn't using a turbine but the delta between the heat from the car's manifold and outside air.

Idea was to reduce load on the alternator without adding resistance to the existing ICE system. Great idea if they can implement it cost effectively (light and simple).

RE: Car research already there
By drycrust3 on 12/25/2009 12:52:43 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. When you consider that 62% of the petrol's energy is lost to the engine, then turning some of that into electricity could be a huge benefit.

RE: Car research already there
By bhieb on 12/28/2009 11:28:25 AM , Rating: 2
Problem is storage. I'd imagine this type of power generation would not be very consistent, and therefore would require a battery to store the power and feed it out at a constant rate. My guess is that the cost (in weight and $$) would be more than any savings that could be had from loosing the alternator.

RE: Car research already there
By ggordonliddy on 12/30/2009 12:05:37 PM , Rating: 1
loosing the alternator

What the hell does that mean, you illiterate blob? Are you talking about unbolting the alternator to make it looser? If not, please learn the most basic English before proceeding with your life.

RE: Car research already there
By PitViper007 on 12/30/2009 3:24:27 PM , Rating: 2
I see that mistake many times a day. You know what he meant. Ignore the spelling mistake, follow the intent of the post, and move on.

RE: Car research already there
By William Gaatjes on 12/25/2009 2:15:22 PM , Rating: 1
But since the idea is to be environmentally friendly, a turbo charger is only a partial solution. there is the turbo lag, where it takes a while for the turbo to spin up. During this moment a turbo powered car would not be that clean. Luckily, we have the MCU (motor control unit) that takes care of the injection of fuel trying to keep the optimal solution for a "best of both worlds" burn of the fuel/air mixture. More horsepower at once means more pollution. An electrical compressor with a storage of compressed air would be best for the turbo lag but probably consumes more power then it provides with a "clean" burn of the fuel/air mixture. A turbocharger is cleaner with some pollutants but produces more of the other pollutants. I wonder what would happen if you could build a cylinder/ piston combination with a build up of electrically isolated parts and create an electrical charge. Low enough that the fuel/air mixture will not ignite right away but high enough to draw the various particles of fuel and air to the best position in the cylinder. Then increase the voltage to a plasma point and kaboom. This will probably only work for diesel/(with gas injections) engines though because of the lower revolutions of the engine. Then there is more time to charge the fuel. Afcourse with diesel you do not need an ignition similair like a sparkplug.

RE: Car research already there
By Alexvrb on 12/29/2009 10:52:32 PM , Rating: 2
Properly sized modern factory turbos should not generally suffer from turbo lag, if they're designed to operate efficiently across a wide range of RPMs. That isn't even discussing faster-spooling twin turbos, variable geometry turbos, VVT, DI, etc.

Basically, you're smoking crack.

By William Gaatjes on 12/30/2009 7:22:38 PM , Rating: 2
Basically, you're smoking crack.

I prefer to leave such a stupid and unhealthy hobby to be executed by for example you... It fit's you.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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