This new generator takes heat from any type of complex surface it meets and converts it into a small amount of electricity. It addresses the limitations of conventional thermoelectric generators, according to Yazawa. The most important part of Yazawa’s research is that it shows that the specially designed fabric could help harness human body heat and provide energy to power Internet of Things (IoT) devices including heart and respiration monitors.
“The flexible power device could help to bring various electronics into clothing and fabrics and change the fashion quite a bit. Perhaps, your dress in the future may express something by LED, or changing its colour, or interactive displays, etc, to heighten personal expression, as an example,” Yazawa says in an exclusive interview with Fibre2Fashion. As the technology matures, there would be many opportunities to integrate with fashion and other areas.
Yazawa, who has been thinking of body heat recovery since the mid-1990s, developed a generic method to harvest maximum heat energy with thermoelectrics over a recent decade of academic research. Woven fabrics were discovered to fill a need for a flexible energy conversion device, he says.
The scientist says that the technology is in an early stage of development and there will have to be a variety of future research to explore many types of fabrics and applications for fashion. However, a first step may be in sporting/athletic gear-to-wear or medical/health equipment.
The new technology has a lot of potential to develop products for monitoring the status or activities of the human body, he says. “IoT technology may enable us to do more than medical/health care.” For example, a doctor, can monitor a patient’s heat beat, blood pressure, perspiration, respiration, and/or dynamic motion, from thousands of miles away, or even on an airplane. Since these sensors/electronics are typically very small, these can be easily placed in the energy harvesting tape/band/patch/fabric.
A stationary human generates a hundred watts of heat energy, and with the activity of sports/exercise even more heat is generated, he says and adds “Our proprietary heat transfer techniques are used to capture energy from the temperature difference between the skin surface and the ambient air temperature. Our future research will improve the energy capture and utility of the device.”
According to him, the technology will benefit users since there is no need to carry bulky, heavy batteries, or charge the device. (SV)
Click here to read the complete interview
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