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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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This technology should be developed further
By MrBungle123 on 8/21/2007 7:06:31 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder how much power something like this could get out of places with extreme temperature differences like the air and the engine block/exhaust system on cars... couldn't we (theoretically) retrieve atleast some of the 60 or so percent of the power that is lost to heat from buring gasoline in our cars? We could couple that with some sort of hybrid system to gain more power, mileage, or both.




By vectrex 411 on 8/21/2007 8:52:40 PM , Rating: 2
Great idea, was patented in 1998, several patents exist for harvesting energy using the "Seebek Effect" (the reverse of Peltier Effect) - conversion of thermal energy to electrical power. Nissan in 2001 patented a whole conversion system for the automobile, unfortunately the current technology utilizes a bismuth - telluride matrix which only produces an efficiency of 10%.


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