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Capture Your Body Heat, Charge Your iPhone with Power Felt

A big part of going green has to do with capturing what would otherwise be wasted. That’s why they say coffee grounds can make good fertilizer, or even green lego blocks, and that’s where the idea for regenerative braking in hybrid electric cars came into the picture. But what about you as a human being? What wasted energy could be recaptured from you?

Wake Forest University researchers from the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials have come up with a fabric that they call Power Felt. The unique thing here is that it can convert temperature differences into usable electric current. What they’ve done is taken carbon nanotubes and locked them up in flexible plastic fibers. After weaving those fibers together, the resulting fabric can react to temperature gradients.

So, as an example, if you were to weave these into a pair of shorts or a t-shirt, the fabric could react to the difference in temperature from your body (warm) and from the outside air (cool), generating a current to charge up your iPhone, iPod, or whatever else. The researchers envision this being used with insulating pipes, roof tiles, car seats, and so on.

The hurdle is that the current version of this tech only yeilds 140 nanowatts of power from 72 stacked swatches of the thin material. That’s one millionth of the power that your iPhone needs when it’s idle. They’ll need to seriously ramp up the efficiency, but this is looking like a very promising development.



About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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One comment

  1. wow, so many problems I hardly know where to begin.

    Some fun stats to start with:
    If you are from a 1st world nation you will spend an estimated 96% of your life indoors or in a car. If you dont buy that take notes on your daily routine. If you are from a 1st world nation chances are you are from a part of the world that has winters. If you have winters you must have heaters if you convert your body heat into electricity you will radiate less body heat. Less body heat means running a heater more. Running a heater more means more fuel is used.

    Now, you are going to say that human body heat is to low to worry about anyway. If you say this then I ask you why you are trying to charge your phone with it.

    You might point out to me that people run ACs in the summer time so this will be a moneysaver. Only problem is that the efficiency of any process that converts thermal energy into another form of energy is strictly dependent on temperature differences. So, in a nutshell in the winter it will run the best but that is the time you do not want it to run, in the summer it will run badly even through that is the time you want it to run.

    What about outside? I guess it could have some use outside if say you were jogging. I would still wonder through if you would really want this fabric pressed close to your skin.

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