Vodafone UK has teamed up with researchers at the University of Southampton to develop denim shorts and a sleeping bag that can harvest energy from body heat to charge portable devices.
The two items are made of thermoelectric energy-harvesting fabric that reacts with body heat and movement to generate electricity. The denim shorts harvest energy from the wearer's movement; a full day of activity eventually could charge a smartphone for more than four hours, according to Vodafone. The sleeping bag would take over where the shorts leave off by harvesting heat as the user sleeps. Eight hours of sleep could mean 11 hours of charge on a smartphone battery.
Vodafone says the Power Shorts will harvest energy from the wearer's movements to recharge a cellphone battery. The shorts are lined with an energy-harvesting material that uses voids, or holes inside the material, to create an electrical charge. (Source: Vodafone)
Steve Beeby, professor of electronic systems at the University of Southampton, is conducting a five-year research program on energy harvesting and e-textiles. Thermoelectric materials are not new, but he told us in an email that what's interesting about the Power Shorts and Recharge Sleeping Bag is how they use "low-temperature materials that can be deposited on textiles."
The Recharge Sleeping Bag is designed with thermoelectric energy-harvesting material that can harvest energy from a sleeping person. The company says that energy eventually will be used to charge a phone or tablet. (Source: Vodafone)
Thermal energy harvesting comes from the Seebeck effect, a process that produces a voltage from the temperature differences across a thermoelectric module. The shorts and the sleeping bag create this effect through voids or holes inside the fabric, Beeby said.
Imagine the holes inside a sponge. As the material is squashed, the holes get smaller and the electrical charge trapped across the voids becomes redistributed, delivering the electrical power. As the size and shape of the voids changes, a net charge is produced at the surface of the material.
The shorts are lined with ferroelectret foam, a polymer material that contains these voids. The sleeping bag contains thermoelectric modules and thin polymer foam material in its lining to gather energy as the user sleeps. Vodafone said in a press release that both products will contain a "Power Pocket" that will transfer the stored energy to a mobile device. However, Beeby said that the technology for transferring the electricity hasn't been developed yet. These products are "mock ups" of how the technology will be implemented while Vodafone works on prototypes that can be tested.
Rebecca Dickinson, a Vodafone spokeswoman, told us that, once prototypes are developed, they will be tested throughout the summer music festival season (until September). The company will then decide on a timeframe for commercial products.
vimalkumarp, I remember you mentioning this thesis topic awhile ago in commenting on one of my aerospace material articles. We'd be very interested in hearing more about the project when you can share.
@Elizabeth: I am working on a project similar to the one you mentioned, energy harvesting on planes. My PhD thesis is on Structrual health monitoring of aircrafts using wireless sensor networks which are powered by energy harvestign solutions. Yes there are many similarities in this and my work. Thanks a lot for mentioning this.
That sounds really interesting, vimalkumarp. Do you happen to be working on this project that I wrote about: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=262725
What you're doing sounds really similar. You didn't comment on that story so maybe you didn't read it. Would love to hear your perspective about it, especially if your work is similar. I think this area really has potential.
Well I as avoiding the topic, TJ, Chuck and JimT, but I will agree! The "charging the voids" placement and explanation is a bit odd! But I imagine because they were showing the back of the shorts and the pocket, it made sense at the time. (Though I suppose they also got a chuckle out of it.) Now let's put this one to rest, shall we?? ;)
Ha, JimT, now that might be an idea! You could be right about that, but I imagine in tests the designers would figure that out and make appropriate changes? One would hope anyway! If it's too uncomfortable, it will never go over very well.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
Robots that walk have come a long way from simple barebones walking machines or pairs of legs without an upper body and head. Much of the research these days focuses on making more humanoid robots. But they are not all created equal.
The IEEE Computer Society has named the top 10 trends for 2014. You can expect the convergence of cloud computing and mobile devices, advances in health care data and devices, as well as privacy issues in social media to make the headlines. And 3D printing came out of nowhere to make a big splash.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.