Alternating p-type (red) and n-type (green) nanotube/polymer heterogeneous thin films, with insulating polymer films (blue) between the conduction layers, form a lightweight, flexible fabric that could generate enough electricity from body heat to power portable electronic devices. (Source: Wake Forest University)
Wow, this is really cool stuff. Think about all the crazy applications and gear that would come out by taking advantage of this technology. I would imagine beyond powering up simple consumer devices, there could be huge applicability for life-saving medical applications.
Another interesting application of carbon nanotubes.This is a very interesting technology, and very appropriate for so many of the devices we use every day.With the advent of platforms that use ultra-low power processors the applications should be wide.It is also interesting to contemplate using the waste heat from a device to power that device.
Years ago there was a push on for ubiquitous, wearable computing devices.These were seen as wearable computing platforms.This is a technology that might help bring that area of research back.
Another interesting aspect of this is the parallel with nuclear space power.Although there have been active nuclear power generation systems for space, these have been rare.One of the issues, of course, was the moving machinery.The most common type of nuclear space power is the RTG, or Radioisotope Thermal Generator, converted a delta-T to a delta-V. And there are no moving parts. These are the devices that power the interplanetary flights.The principle is the same, but the materials completely different.Of course, you would not want to wear a RTG since the heat source is pure plutonium.
There do seem to be a lot of interesting and novel materials applications coming out that are based on, or incorporate, CNTs as an important ingredient. I wrote about some early methods for constructing CNTs about a decade ago and wondered how long it would take to see them start to be actually used.
naperlou, I remember the push for wearable devices you are referring to. It actually wasn't that long ago, a decade or less. I seem to remember that keeping them powered was a problem. Looks like we're getting closer to that solution.
Nice article, Ann. One thing I like about this material is that it's not based on movement or vibration. The U.S. Military is using a wearable generator attached to the boot. But it requires movement. The self-charging batteries for remote sensors rely on vibration. A power generator based on temperature variations wouldn't require motion or vibration. Cool.
Thanks Rob. Good point about not needing movement to activate energy harvesting, like that Army boot. OTOH, considering the amount of walking around soldiers do, it makes sense that the military would be looking at apps that harvest energy from movement. And also considering the lack of exercise many people get, it might make more sense to motivate us by working on movement-activated energy harvesting for consumer devices. I guess it makes sense to have different technologies that can harvest different kinds of energy.
Ann, if such innovations are happening, it’s a bonus for the gadget users. Most of us experience the power crunch, while using phones/IPad/ Smartphones. So whenever the battery power goes down below a certain level, it can be recharges immediately from the fabric, wonderful idea and hope then onwards no power drain.
Energy harvesting is the need of he hour. Autonomous systems with energy harvesting will offer better workflow soultions and that will in turn result in better products. I am working on a structural health monitoring system with energy harvesting and I know and I am sure like this wearable fabric may other invention will soon see the light of the day in coming days.
To the user wearing the fabric it would provide a cooling effect. This would be advantagious for the foot soldier, especially when also wearing the boot generator. Overall efficiency is increased when both are employed together.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
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