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Body Heat Power  (Source: Image via Fraunhofer)
Future electronic devices could be powered by body heat alone

For mobile professionals, poor battery life from a device is the ultimate enemy to staying connected on the go. Everyone wants longer battery life from phones, laptops and cameras.

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen have teamed up with scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques IPM and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Applied Materials Research IFAM to devise a way to power electronic circuits by using body heat.

The researchers were able to construct a method of turning body heat into electricity using the same principal as thermoelectric generators (TEG) made from semi-conductor elements. TEGs extract electricity from the temperature difference between a hot and cold environment.

Researchers from Fraunhofer say that typically a temperature difference of several tens of degrees is needed, but that the temperature difference between the body and the environment is only a few degrees.

That means that with such a small temperature difference, the amount of electricity generated is very low voltage. The TEG can deliver 200 millivolts when most electronics require one or two volts to operate.

“We combined a number of components in a completely new way to create circuits that can operate on 200 millivolts,” says Peter Spies, manager of this sub-project at the IIS. “This has enabled us to build entire electronic systems that do not require an internal battery, but draw their energy from body heat alone.”

With all the current recalls on batteries from Nokia and the huge recall last year of Sony made notebook batteries, alternative methods of powering electronic devices are a huge area of research. Whether this body heat power technology works or not, it is only a matter of time before consumers can stop depending on batteries and move to fuel cells and other methods of getting power for electronic devices.



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Refining old tech
By Spyvie on 8/21/2007 5:16:44 PM , Rating: 2
This is an impressive refinement of the same very old tech that keeps the pilot safety valve open on your gas furnace, and converts heat to current in a simple nuclear battery.

The thin brass colored part in your furnace that is impinged upon by the pilot flame is called a thermocouple or a thermopile. Thermocouples generate 24mv when a 400f temp difference is maintained between the hot and cold junctions. A thermopile, used to power the entire control circuit of some gas appliances, is a self contained series of thermocouples generating up to 750mv when the proper temp difference is maintained.

I don’t know much about nuclear batteries other than they use thermocouples.

Sorry to bore everyone with useless facts, I just want to make sure everyone knows that the same basic concept has been in use for a long time. Sort of like this post: http://www.dailytech.com/Implatantable+Nanogenerat... Where they are essentially using a refined version of the sparker for your BBQ. Obviously in both cases the tech has been refined, but the basic concepts have existed for years.




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