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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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RE: The Matrix has you
By lemonadesoda on 8/21/2007 6:48:03 PM , Rating: 3
The point being made, is not that it is scientifically impossible, but that it is scientifically a very inefficient approach. Much easier and much more efficient is to brew alcohol or manuf. gases and use these as energy sources.

The Island's concept of using humans for "body parts" is a much more plausible and scientific approach to the misuse of humans.

RE: The Matrix has you
By Scorpion on 8/21/2007 6:57:55 PM , Rating: 3
Ok that's what I was trying to get at. I was waiting for the response. If the point was really on the efficiency of the conversion. The energy input required to "farm" the humans and even to produce the "food energy" required to keep them living would probably be much greater than the output. But it's a Sci-Fi movie and they can simply say that the machines have discovered more efficient ways of harnessing that power. :)

As other methods of deriving energy then yes you could argue that their resources would be better used converting energy that required less input and yeilded more output. Without sun you're really limited in energy sources and chemical energy is the most viable.

If the machines didn't need us for energy then it wouldn't have made for much of a movie about enslaved humans. :) It is just a movie after all.

RE: The Matrix has you
By LogicallyGenius on 8/23/2007 4:18:25 AM , Rating: 2
I cant wait for chairs that generate electric currents as we seat on them. COOL it.

RE: The Matrix has you
By smitty3268 on 8/21/2007 7:28:33 PM , Rating: 2
That bugged me every single time I watched the movie - using humans for power is inherently inefficient, because our bodies are using the inputs for lots of other stuff, like keeping us alive. Still, it made for a great story.

RE: The Matrix has you
By Xenoterranos on 8/21/2007 11:24:17 PM , Rating: 2
And you call yourselves nerds!
During the initial reveal by Morpheus, it is mentioned that the robots are powered by a combination of human batteries and "a form of fusion". So there, science prevails!

RE: The Matrix has you
By smitty3268 on 8/22/2007 12:39:48 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, I know. In the 3rd movie they say that the machines can survive without the people but it just wouldn't be pleasant. But if they have fusion, then why do they need the humans again? Presumably there's some reason that it can't provide them enough power, but choosing humans for their boost just seems stupid. They've got to be feeding us with some sort of biological food substance - wouldn't simply burning whatever they're giving us be more efficient than feeding us, maintaining our bodies, and creating the matrix to contain us? Anyway, it's science fiction and they had to come up with some sort of way to explain the background story. Maybe they've genetically engineered us to live by feeding us plastic waste products, or something... Sure they could have gotten bacteria to do it, but they wanted to humiliate us.

RE: The Matrix has you
By smitty3268 on 8/22/2007 12:40:41 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry, I guess that was actually the 2nd movie, wasn't it.

RE: The Matrix has you
By Samus on 8/22/2007 3:01:46 AM , Rating: 2
> "They used us as batteries..."

Just so. Unfortunately, that was without a doubt the most scientifically ridiculous part of an otherwise great movie.

I couldn't agree more. Why use us when you have far better and simpler alternatives from nuclear sources?

But the point of the machines using us was to PUNISH us. The only debatable arguement for that was they saved us by keeping us alive. The matrix they created is a pretty pimp place if I do say so myself ;)

RE: The Matrix has you
By djc208 on 8/22/2007 2:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
I always wondered, if they had the technology to grow humans artificially, and were as smart as they say they were, then why not just genetically engineer a biomass that just generated power. A giant electric-eel type organism that didn't require the massive computing power that running the matrix would have required. Engineer it to give off hydrogen as a byproduct and the thing will produce energy and fuel at the same time!

But to get back on track, I would think this would work for wrist watches and the like but I don't know if I see it being of much use in cell phones or the like yet. Might get MP3 players that low.

RE: The Matrix has you
By bigleadpipe on 8/23/2007 9:17:53 AM , Rating: 2
I think the wrist watch would be the first use for this technology since the temperature differential would be the greatest on your arm since it is exposed most of the time.

They could probably design something like the arm warmers used by road bicyclists or a long sleeve T-shirt to capture that energy. Runners could power their electronics on cool days by using running tights with the same technology.

This would be great for all athletes when training in the winter months where the temperature differential would be the greatest and you always needd to carry lights while exercising in the dark. "Body Powered Headlights"

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