Body heat touted as power source

Getting a little hot under the collar?

German scientists claimed to have a developed a procedure that harnesses body heat in order to generate power, which in the future may be used to power mobile devices.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits have said that they can use the difference between the body's surface temperature and that of the surroundings to produce energy which could be used to power medical equipment, such as sensors attached to a body of a patient in an intensive care ward.

Essentially, the system works on the principle of thermoelectric generators (TEG) -- semiconductor elements which extract electrical energy from the temperature difference between a hot and cold environment.

Peter Spies, project leader at the institute and his team have apparently improved these thermoelectric generators. Traditionally a temperature difference of several tens of degrees is needed in order to generate enough power. At most, the difference between human bodies and the surrounding environment is only a few degrees.

"Only low voltages can be produced from differences like these," explains Spies. Traditional TEG produces roughly 200 millivolts, while electronic devices require at least one or two volts.

However, the German engineers have resolved this by combining "a number of components in a completely new way to create circuits that can operate on 200 millivolts."

"This has enabled us to build entire electronic systems that do not require an internal battery, but draw their energy from body heat alone," he said.

"We have a working device in our labs" confirmed Spies, who has demonstrated the device at various trade shows. When a hand is placed on a specifically designed pad, "it powers a wireless transceiver and a temperature sensor."

However Spies admits that the technology is not currently a viable option to power mobile devices, although it does have some battery charging capabilities.

"The problem is the human body is not sufficient to power mobile phones at present," said Spies. "Perhaps in the future this might be a feasible vision."

He points out that at a recent trade show in California, aircraft maker Boeing said it was looking to use thermoelectric generator technology to power the switches located in airplane seats.

Spies believes that when further improvements have been made to the switching systems, a temperature difference of only 0.5 degrees will be sufficient to generate electricity.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Jowitt

Techworld.com
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?