Sweat Powered Battery for Wearable Medical Devices

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore created a flexible battery that runs on sweat. The device could provide a new way to power medical wearables, some of which already use sweat to detect or monitor disease. The stretchable device incorporates silver flakes that clump together and generate a small electrical current in the presence of sweat.

Medical wearables are becoming more and more ubiquitous. The ability to monitor vital signs or disease progression using such discreet and convenient technology has obvious advantages. However, in the interests of the environment, moving away from traditional battery technologies would be advantageous, and what could be better than allowing your body to power your portable device?

“Conventional batteries are cheaper and more common than ever, but they are often made from unsustainable materials that are harmful to the environment,” said Lyu Jian, a researcher involved in the study, in a press release. “They are also potentially harmful in portable devices, where a broken battery could spill toxic fluids on human skin. Our device could provide a real opportunity to completely remove those toxic materials. “


The new battery uses sweat as a source of energy. Sweat is rich in chloride ions and it is this property that exploits the battery. It consists of a stretchable cloth on which the researchers deposited ink containing silver flakes, to act as electrodes. The acidity and chloride ions in sweat cause the scales to clump together, resulting in an electrical charge. Because it can store absorbed sweat for long periods, the battery can generate power even when someone is not exercising and actively sweating.

“Our technology heralds a previously unattainable milestone in wearable device design,” said Lee Pooi See, another developer of the new battery. “By capitalizing on a ubiquitous product, perspiration, we could be looking for a greener way to power portable devices that doesn’t rely on conventional batteries. It is an almost guaranteed source of energy produced by our body. We hope that the battery will be able to power all kinds of portable devices. “

So far, the team has tested the battery on a few volunteers. One volunteer cycled a bicycle for 30 minutes, and during this time, the battery successfully powered a temperature sensor that communicated with a smartphone via Bluetooth.

“Our device could be more durable than current technology, as we demonstrated that it could withstand the stress of a user’s daily activities and repeated exposure to stress or sweat,” said Lee Pooi See. “The slim size of our battery also solves two problems in wearable technology: Traditional button batteries are a problem in achieving the kind of fancy aesthetics that appeal to consumers, while thinner batteries reduce the capacity of the item to carry enough cargo to last all day. “

Watch a video about the battery:


Study in magazine Progress of science: Printable elastomeric electrodes with sweat-enhanced conductivity for wearables

Via: Nanyang Technological University

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