We all know that heat is one of the main ways to generate electrical power, so why not use some of our own excess body heat to keep all of those tech devices we love to carry charged?
Professor Jo Byeong-jin of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) thinks we need to tap into this power source that we all carry around, and has developed a new type of thermo-element to do it more efficiently. Dr. Jo says that a tiny four-inch strip delivers enough power to turn on a microchip, but if we really want to keep something like a cellphone running, the element will need to be more like 10 x 40 inches. That means building the elements into a shirt or pants to get plenty of area, and hopefully you like wearing your clothes pretty tight.
With 400 square inches, Dr. Jo says his element can generate about two watts, or just enough to keep your iPhone running. In fact, instead of charging the phone's built in battery, he sees a future where devices no longer need built-in batteries, and are simply powered directly from the thermal element. This means that the phone can become much smaller as you, essentially, replace the battery. Although you will have to wear those awkward power-generating clothes. Let's just hope its a hot enough day when you decide that you need to spend three hours on the phone.
The good news is that Dr. Jo says that the new thermal element is flexible, so it can be made to conform to your body's contours unlike the older ceramic based versions. It's also up to 14 times more efficient, which makes me wonder just how big a suit using the older technology would have to be.
Dr. Jo says that the team is now working on ways to incorporate the elements into mass-produced clothing, and he hopes the technology will be available within the next two to three years.