Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a new low-cost portable device that transforms the human body into a biological battery.
The device, described in the journal Science Advances , is elastic enough that you can use it as a ring, a bracelet or any other accessory that touches your skin. It also takes advantage of a person's natural heat, using thermoelectric generators to convert the internal temperature of the body into electricity.
"In the future, we want to be able to power portable electronic devices without having to include a battery," said Jianliang Xiao, lead author of the new paper and associate professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The concept may sound like something straight out of the Matrix movie series , in which a race of robots have enslaved humans to harvest their precious organic energy. Xiao and his colleagues aren't that ambitious: Their devices can generate around 1 volt of power for every square centimeter of space on the skin - less voltage per area than most existing batteries provide, but enough to power electronic devices like watches or fitness trackers.
Scientists have previously experimented with similar portable thermoelectric devices, but Xiao's is springy, can self-fix when damaged, and is fully recyclable, making it a cleaner alternative to traditional electronics.
"Whenever you use a battery, you are draining it and eventually you will have to replace it," said Xiao. "The great thing about our thermoelectric device is that you can use it and it gives you constant power."