Gadgets That Run on Body Heat

Thu Aug 23, 2007 7:37AM EDT

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No jokes about hot bods, please. All of you warm-blooded folks may have the advantage with this new technology. You may soon be able to power your cell phone, PCs, and other electronics by tapping into your own body heat, and you don't need to be pedaling a stationary bike, walking the treadmill, or otherwise working up a sweat to do it. You can just sit there, couch potato style, and generate enough body heat to keep your gear going.

I stumbled across this tidbit on the Discovery Channel, but the research originates from the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, where they are developing special circuits that use body heat. These could lead to battery-less cell phones and medical monitors that draw energy from their users.

The new circuits utilize the principle of thermoelectric generators (TEG) made from semiconductor elements. According to the scientists, the TEGs extract electrical energy simply from the temperature difference between a hot and a cold environment. Normally, a difference of several tens of degrees would be required in order to generate enough power, but the difference between the body's surface temperature and that of its environment is only a few degrees. To boost the energy, they combined a number of components that store up the energy until there's enough to operate the electronic device.

The photo shows a wireless transmitter being powered by the heat given off by a person's hand via a thermoelectric generator. Can't wait to see if it takes advantage of hot flashes!

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