wearable tech

Researchers have created a glass fabric-based thermoelectric generator wearable technology.

A team of South Korean researchers have developed technology that could one day power your smartphone using just body heat.



Wearable computers or devices have been hailed as the next generation of mobile electronic gadgets, but finding a way to deliver sufficient, long-lasting power has been a problem.

Now scientists have come up with a novel solution using a glass and fabric-based thermoelectric generator that could spell a new age of discreet smart technology.

A team of researchers at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology University) in South Korea headed by Professor Cho of electrical engineering are behind the innovation

Professor Byung Jin Cho with his team created a flexible thermoelectric (TE) generator that allows you to recharge electronic devices from your own body heat. 

The device is suitable for recharging heart monitors, smartglasses and other wearable technology, experts claim.

A thermoelectric generator is a device that can convert heat, or a temperature difference, into electric energy.

Using the small but significant temperature difference between skin and air, Professor Cho and his team have been able to produce this tiny and wearable thermoelectric generator.

For electronics to be worn by a user, they must be light, flexible, and equipped with a power source, which could be a portable, long-lasting battery or a generator.

KAIST’s generator is extremely light and flexible and produces electricity from the heat of the human body.

Professor Cho confirmed that the generator could also charge smartphones.

‘Right now we are trying to make a sample that provides electricity for medical sensors,’ he says.

‘After that, smartphones will be next application of the TE generator.’

It is so flexible that it can be bent almost in a complete circle, and there are no changes in performance even if the generator bends upward and downward for up to 120 cycles.

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Professor Cho’s device is suitable for recharging heart monitors, smartglasses and other wearable technology.

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The glass fabric-based thermoelectric generator is so flexible that it can be bent almost in a complete circle with a gap of just 0.8 inches.

To date, two types of TE generators have been developed.

These are based either on organic or inorganic materials, the former being carbon-based compounds found in biological systems and the latter molecules lacking carbon found in geological systems.

The benefit of organic-based TE generators is they are highly flexible and compatible with human skin, ideal for wearable electronics, but they have a low power output.

Inorganic-based TE generators produce a high electrical energy, but they are heavy, rigid, and bulky.

Professor Cho came up with the new concept and design technique to build a flexible TE generator that minimises thermal energy loss but maximises power output, combining the benefits of both organic and inorganic materials.

This is quite a revolutionary approach to design a generator. In so doing, we were able to significantly reduce the weight of our generator, which is an essential element for wearable electronics,’ he says.

When using KAIST’s TE generator for a wearable wristband device, it will produce around 40 milliwatts of electric power based on the temperature difference of 0.5°C (31°F) between human skin and the surrounding air.

Professor Cho further described the merits of the new generator.

‘Our technology presents an easy and simple way of fabricating an extremely flexible, light, and high-performance TE generator.

‘We expect that this technology will find further applications in scale-up systems such as automobiles, factories, aircraft and vessels where we see abundant thermal energy being wasted.’

Via Daily Mail