Research Foundation News

January 22, 2020

Body heat through flexible fabric could power IoT devices for health monitoring for people, pets, machinery

wearable-power Researchers at Purdue University have created a technology to address the thickness issue for wearable power generation. (Image provided) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Wearable electronics and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices are rapidly growing in popularity, but their need for consistent power can place a high burden on users. One recently proposed solution is to generate electricity using heat from the human body, animals or other ambient sources, but typical emerging devices need to be up to an inch thick to harvest maximum results.

Researchers at Purdue University have created a technology to address the thickness issue for wearable power generation. They developed a woven, thermoelectric flexible fabric that is potentially thinner than a millimeter.

“This wearable power generator is well-suited for body or other heat recovery while also offering great mechanical flexibility and comfort,” said Kazuaki Yazawa, a research associate professor at Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park. “Furthermore, this film-based product is easier to manufacture compared to current manufacturing of thermoelectric modules.”

The flexible thermoelectric generator technology uses a polymer or a variety of yarns woven into a polymer film or fabric sheet with a printable pattern of thermoelectric materials. The generator takes heat from any curved surface it meets and converts it into a small amount of electricity.

Punched holes incorporated with the printed pattern allow an electric insulated thread to pass over between the two sides to properly connect the hot and cold side surfaces. The 3D structure then becomes similar to conventional rigid or solid thermoelectric power generator modules.

“There are several potential areas of application for this technology for both humans and animals,” Yazawa said. “It can be used for biomonitoring humans or animals, along with applications for industrial machining where the unreachable curved surface can be used for sensing and machine health monitoring.”

The innovators are working with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the technology. They are looking for partners in the creation of prototypes and technology evaluation. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact Dipak Narula from OTC at dnarula@prf.org and mention track code 2019-YAZA-68590.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Visit the Office of Technology Commercialization for more information.       

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341, cladam@prf.org 
Source: Kazuaki Yazawa, kyazawa@purdue.edu

Photo Caption: Researchers at Purdue University have created a technology to address the thickness issue for wearable power generation. (Image provided) https://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/2020/wearable-power.jpg


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