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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 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"

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
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