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Energy Harvested From Body, Environment Could Power Wearables, IoT Devices

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energy body

Credit: Holly House

As consumer electronics get smaller, it is becoming increasingly important to start implementing new energy-harvesting techniques to keep devices powered for long periods of time. Low-power wearable devices may soon stop using batteries and start drawing energy generated by body heat and movement, as well as ambient energy from the environment.

Chip performance and energy efficiency of some wearables are reaching a point where it has started becoming "convenient for us to replace the battery and replace it with ambient energy," says Texas Instruments lead designer Yogesh Ramadass. He notes energy tapped from the body and environment is in the microwatt range, so it cannot be used for smartwatches or fitness trackers, which draw milliwatts of energy. However, energy-harvesting technologies could be relevant in smoke detectors, alarm sensors, smart meters, and remote controls, according to researchers. They say in the coming year there will be billions of Internet-connected devices supplying real-time information.

The energy efficiency of circuitry plays a major role in determining the size, weight, and operating time of self-powered Internet of Things devices. "You can think of a wearable kind of system where you are applying a thermoelectric device and the temperature difference between the body and ambient [heat] is going to provide the energy to power a system," Ramadass says.

From IDG News Service
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