This wearable tab may soon harness body movements to power gadgets

Is this the future of charging?
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We could soon be harnessing the movements of our bodies in order to charge electronic gadgets, after a team of researchers developed a concept for the potentially groundbreaking technology.

A collaborative effort by groups at both the University of Buffalo and the Chinese Academy of Science has resulted in the development of a wearable metallic tab that's able to pick up on body movements and generate electricity. Such a device would mean that wearers would be able to convert everyday energy expenditure into power for their smart devices.

Read this: Are kinetic-powered wearables any closer to reality?

"No one likes being tethered to a power outlet or lugging around a portable charger. The human body is an abundant source of energy. We thought: 'Why not harness it to produce our own power?'" says lead author Qiaoqiang Gan, associate professor of electrical engineering in UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, in the published study.

This wearable tab may soon harness body movements to power gadgets

The system works by attaching the metallic tab, called a triboelectric nanogenerator, to the body, where it is then capable of generating electricity from, for example, the movement of a bending finger. Since the tab comprises of two thin layers of gold with a silicon-based polymer called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) placed in between, this movement then causes friction between layers, which in turn is able generate the electricity.

According to the researchers, the device was able to generate a maximum voltage of 124 volts, a maximum current of 10 microamps and a maximum power density of 0.22 milliwatts per square centimetre. And while that's not enough to pump juice back into your smartphone just yet, it was able to light 48 LED lights simultaneously.

The team will now continue developing the concept with larger pieces of gold, and no doubt placement onto different areas of the body, while it's also set to explore a portable battery that will store the energy generated from movements.

And who knows, perhaps in years to come the technology being developed here will render the current methods of charging obsolete.

This wearable tab may soon harness body movements to power gadgets

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Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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