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
quote: Those devices will never generate enough heat to power themselves because they must run at no more than a few watts to be without battery or some sort of capacitance.