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One Step Closer to Electricity from Human Sweat

Posted on August 30th, 2017 by in New Materials & Applications

Recent innovations in stretchable biofuel cells could mean that breaking into a sweat over low battery warnings on your smartphone would recharge the device.

While wearable electronics have grown in popularity due to advances in materials, nanotechnology, and miniaturization of battery technology, mass adoption has been challenged by the lack of thin, wearable energy sources. Researchers and engineers at the University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering have reported developing stretchable biofuel cells that generate energy from human sweat, overcoming the need for bulky batteries, wireless power delivered by near-field communication, or super capacitors. By utilizing a soft, stretchable electronic-skin-based biofuel cell (E-BFC), the UCSD team successfully converted readily available sweat lactate into electricity.

The fuel cell’s innovative design utilizes a densely packed anode and cathode array configured in a stretchable “island-bridge” configuration. Spring-like gold contacts between elements allow the array to flex and stretch. This flexible configuration not only enables the creation of E-BFC fabrics capable of conforming to skin but also eliminates the gradual delamination and performance degradation experienced by the stiffer configuration in prior art fuel cells. The biofuel cell itself converts sugar into electricity through a chemical reaction as shown in the following YouTube video:

Achieving a power density ten times greater than the current state of the art, the E-BFC represents the highest power density recorded by a wearable biofuel cell to date and is capable of powering conventional electronic devices. Could the iShirt or iPants be the next must-have accessory powering your iPhone or perhaps electricity generating underwear will be the next fashion statement?

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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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