Never get stranded with a dead cell phone again. A promising new technology called Power Felt, a thermoelectric device that converts body heat into an electrical current, soon could create enough juice to make another call simply by touching it.
Developed by researchers in the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University, Power Felt is comprised of tiny carbon nanotubes locked up in flexible plastic fibers and made to feel like fabric. The technology uses temperature differences – room temperature versus body temperature, for instance – to create a charge.
Their research appears in the current issue of Nano Letters, a leading journal in nanotechnology.
"We waste a lot of energy in the form of heat. For example, recapturing a car's energy waste could help improve fuel mileage and power the radio, air conditioning or navigation system," says researcher and Wake Forest graduate student Corey Hewitt. "Generally thermoelectrics are an underdeveloped technology for harvesting energy, yet there is so much opportunity."
Potential uses for Power Felt include lining automobile seats to boost battery power and service electrical needs, insulating pipes or collecting heat under roof tiles to lower gas or electric bills, lining clothing or sports equipment to monitor performance, or wrapping IV or wound sites to better track patients' medical needs.
"Imagine it in an emergency kit, wrapped around a flashlight, powering a weather radio, charging a prepaid cell phone," said David Carroll, director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. "Power Felt could provide relief during power outages or accidents."
Cost has prevented thermoelectrics from being used more widely in consumer products. Standard thermoelectric devices use a much more efficient compound called bismuth telluride to turn heat into power in products including mobile refrigerators and CPU coolers, but researchers say it can cost $1,000 per kilogram. Like silicon, they liken Power Felt's affordability to demand in volume and think someday it could cost only $1 to add to a cell phone cover.
Currently, 72 stacked layers in the fabric yield about 140 nanowatts of power. The team is evaluating several ways to add more nanotube layers and make them even thinner to boost the power output.
Although there's more work to do before Power Felt is ready for market, Hewitt says, "I imagine being able to make a jacket with a completely thermoelectric inside liner that gathers warmth from body heat, while the exterior remains cold from the outside temperature. If the Power Felt is efficient enough, you could potentially power an iPod, which would be great for distance runners. It's definitely within reach."
Wake Forest is in talks with investors to produce Power Felt commercially.
Wake Forest University: http://www.wfu.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Estonia has invited people to register as e-residents - a step towards a world where a person's identity online matters just as much as their identity offline
Apple, Google say even they can't break their new encryption technology that locks law enforcement out of smartphones
New high-tech "Air Umbrellas" are innovative in concept, but prototypes have a long way to go
A lecture on the depiction of women in video games was cancelled at Utah State University after the school received threats of a mass shooting. Jericka Duncan reports on a controversy that started online and has now moved to the real world.
Will voice biometrics replace fingerprints and passwords to ID people by sound?
How do you make a better snake robot? You study snakes, of course.
CEO Elon Musk took to the stage for a dramatic unveiling, announcing slew of groundbreaking features on his Model S cars
The Grand Challenge is a new tradition in the world of public health: asking anyone (and everyone) to come up with innovations. The latest assignment: design cooler protective gear for Ebola teams.
If you're a science and tech history geek with mad stacks waiting to be spent, you've come to the right place. If you fit that description minus the mad stacks, start buying lottery tickets, because the upcoming History of Science auction at Bonhams New York is full of stuff you want.
A new study from AAA is raising concerns about the modern technology in our cars and examined the level of distractions drivers face using hands-free features