Researchers from the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) are set to revolutionize wearable technology. They've developed a new light and flexible generator made out of thermoelectric materials printed on glass fabric.
The design makes human-powered devices possible in a way we've never seen before. Yielding a tool that's smaller and lighter than other biogenerators, this method may be the power-harvesting boost wearables need to compete.
How to supply power in a stable and reliable manner is one of the most critical issues when it comes to commercializing wearable devices, says Byung Jin Cho, a professor of electrical engineering who developed the flexible generator.
The team of KAIST researchers, headed by Cho, devised a solution to this problem by developing a glass-fabric-based thermoelectric generator that's light, flexible, and produces electricity from the heat of the human body.
Professor Cho and his team synthesized liquidlike pastes of n-type (Bi2Te3) and p-type (Sb2Te3) thermoelectric materials and printed them onto a glass fabric using a screen printing technique.
"For our case, the glass fabric itself serves as the upper and lower substrates of a [thermoelectric] generator, keeping the inorganic [thermoelectric] materials in between," said Cho.
"This is quite a revolutionary [way] to design a generator," Cho continued. "In so doing, we were able to significantly reduce the weight of our generator, which is an essential element for wearable electronics."
For electronics to be widely adopted they must be light, flexible, and equipped with a power source, which could be a portable, long-lasting battery or no battery at all but a generator.
How to supply power in a stable and reliable manner is seen by many manufacturers as one of the most critical hurdles to successfully commercializing wearable devices.
The KAIST glass-fabric-based flexible thermoelectric generator uses a screen printing technique and the self-sustaining structure of a thermoelectric device without top and bottom substrates. With this technique it's possible to make the device both thin (approximately 500um), lightweight (0.13 g cm−2), and flexible, opening it up for a wide array of applications. Cho said scaled-up uses might include automobiles, factories, aircraft, and vessels where we see abundant thermal energy that's currently being wasted.
hough both smaller and lighter in its design, the glass-fabric generator also produces large output power density that greatly outperform other fabricated pliant thermoelectric dynamos -- yielding multiple-tens of times more electricity than previously developed bio-generating instruments.