Powered by human sweat

Posted by Flux on 

17 June 2020

Several institutions have developed breakthrough technology that uses human perspiration to power wearable devices.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow have successfully tested a prototype device
powered by human sweat instead of batteries. Positive and negative ions in the wearer’s sweat interact with an absorbent polyester cloth, wrapped around the arm during exercise, creating a reaction that generates electricity. The device can be fully charged with as little as half a drop of perspiration.

Above: Wearable device powered by human sweat.

L’Université Grenoble Alpes and the University of San Diego have recently developed and patented a flexible device that’s able to produce electrical energy from human sweat. Utilising lactate found in sweat, a chemical reaction generates sufficient energy to power LED lights.

Caltech academics have just discovered how to power a wearable e-skin using perspiration. The e-skin, which resembles a nicotine patch, can monitor heart rate, body temperature and blood sugar and can run without an external power source. The researchers are even able to control human prosthetics via Bluetooth with this technology.

Above: Sweat powered prosthetic leg

Batteries can damage the environment, containing toxic electrolytes which can release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere and seep into groundwater once discarded. They are also potentially harmful in wearable devices if a battery breaks and skin comes into contact with toxic fluids. The newly-developed sweat-powered technology could replace conventional batteries in the future.

“As wearable devices like health monitors continue to increase in popularity, it opens up the possibility of a safer, more environmentally-friendly method of generating sustainable power, not just for wearables but possibly also for emerging areas such as e-bikes and electric vehicles (EVs),” says Ravinder Dahiya, Head of the BEST group at the University of Glasgow.

This technology is in its infancy but the potential applications for it are vast. In addition to fitness trackers which have become mainstream, these innovations could lead to a new generation of health diagnostic tools and prosthetics.

By Faeeza Khan

Image credit: Max Winkler

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