Engineers at the University of Utah have discovered a new material that could generate electricity through body heat collected from a person’s jewelry. It is said that the electricity is enough to power a body sensor, a cooking pan or could charge a phone in just a few hours.
The study was led by Ashutosh Tiwari, a University of Utah materials science and engineering professor. The team found that a combination of calcium, cobalt and terbium can be used to create an efficient, affordable and bio-friendly material that can generate electricity through a thermoelectric process that involves heat and cold air, EurekAlert reported.
The team’s findings were published in the latest issue of “Scientific Reports.” Shrikant Saini, a materials science and engineering postdoctoral researcher in the University of Utah, is the first author of the paper.
It was noted that the thermoelectric effect is a process involving temperature difference in a material and how it generates an electrical voltage. If one end of the material is cold while the other one is hot, charge carriers from the hot end flow through the material to the cold end. This generates an electrical voltage. The material requires less than one degree of difference in temperature to produce a detectable voltage.
While there are other materials that can generate power this way, these materials are toxic to humans. The new material is affordable to produce and is bio-friendly as well as eco-friendly while still being efficient at generating electricity.
Phys.org noted that the material has a lot of applications. It can be created into jewelry that uses body heat to power implantable medical devices like blood-glucose or heart monitors.
It can also be used to charge mobile devices through cooking pans or in cars, using the heat drawn from the engine. It can be used in airplanes as well by generating extra power using heat from the cabin and the cold air outside.