Silk fabric-based wearable thermoelectric generator for energy harvesting from the human body

Significance Statement

Design and development of smart wearable devices for health monitoring have attracted tremendous attention of scientific community and industry. As a critical component of wearable device, power-supply systems should fulfill the requirements of size, weight, and flexibility Although conventional rechargeable batteries could effectively power the devices, the reduction of their size could significantly restrict their capacity and lifetime.

The combination of batteries with wearable thermoelectric (TE) power generators, which can harvest energy from human body, has been proposed as a strategy to overcome the constraint. In this work a wearable wearable thermoelectric power generator based on commercially available silk fabrics was developed for energy harvesting from waste heat generated by the human body for the first time. A prototype integrating an array of 12 thermocouples was fabricated to effectively convert thermal energy into electricity. Conventional printing technology could be adapted to make fabric-based wearable thermoelectric power generator with designed patterns. This work may provide a new approach to developing wearable thermoelectric power generators based on commercially available fabric for practical applications in wearable electronics.

Silk fabric-based wearable thermoelectric generator for energy harvesting from human body. Advances in Engineering

About the author

Professor Zhisong Lu received his PhD degree in school of chemical & biomedical engineering from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore in 2011, and is currently a professor and associate director of Institute for Clean Energy & Advanced Materials in Southwest University, China. Dr. Lu’s research expertise is in functional nanomaterials and their biological applications. With an h-index of 25 and total citation of 2500, he has co-authored more than 90 papers in refereed journals and has filed 9 patents. He also serves as an advisory board member of Fundamental Toxicological Sciences. 

Journal Reference

Applied Energy, Volume 164, 15 February 2016, Pages 57–63. 

Zhisong Lu, Huihui Zhang,Cuiping Mao,Chang Ming Li

Show Affiliations

Chongqing Key Laboratory for Advanced Materials & Technologies of Clean Energies, Southwest University, 1 Tiansheng Road, Chongqing 400715, PR China

Institute for Clean Energy & Advanced Materials, Faculty of Materials & Energy, Southwest University, 1 Tiansheng Road, Chongqing 400715, PR China

Abstract

The development of flexible thermoelectric (TE) power generators for harvesting energy from the human body has attracted significant interest in recent years. However, thus far, a wearable TE power generator based on commercially available fabrics has not been realized. In this study, nanostructured Bi2Te3 and Sb2Te3 were synthesized and deposited on both sides of a silk fabric to form wearable thermoelectric columns. These wearable thermoelectric columns were connected with silver foils to fabricate a prototype integrating an array of 12 thermocouples. The generator could effectively convert thermal energy into electricity in the temperature difference (ΔT) range of 5–35 K. The maximum voltage and power outputs were ∼10 mV and ∼15 nW, respectively, with no significant change in both, during 100 cycles of bending and twisting. Different voltage output profiles were collected from an arm-attached generator before and after 30 min of walking, to highlight the immense potential of the silk fabric-based wearable thermoelectric generator. This study provides a new approach for developing fabric-based wearable thermoelectric power generators for practical applications in wearable electronics.

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