Energy Sources for Future Gadgets

    Gadgets are inexorably becoming smaller, despite the obvious anatomical limitations of man. And gradually they become more “wearable”, closer to the body. Vivid examples are fitness trackers, which took the place of watches, which were supplanted from everyday life by the mass distribution of mobile phones. Now the watch, regrouping and receiving reinforcements, went on the offensive already in the form of “smart” ones. Glasses, which also went underground thanks to contact lenses, can soon catch up after the clock.

    Naturally, this is not the limit. In the near future, we are waiting for the appearance of even more compact gadgets. Perhaps they will even use the human body. And the more acute should be the problem of powering gadgets. On the one hand, grinding elemental base can lead to a reduction in energy consumption. On the other hand, batteries also have to be reduced in size in order to at least somehow preserve the compactness and elegance of products. And everything will become even more complicated if you use the human body as an active component of the gadget itself. Therefore, now is the time to pay attention to alternative ways of power supply, which can be a good help now.

    In particular, let's look at the use of human body heat, sweat, and canalized light.

    The usual nightly charging of gadgets can be inconvenient for some wearable gadgets. And in some cases, for example, implanted devices - even impossible. At one time, the experience of Neil Harbisson (Neil Harbisson) was widely publicized, which in 2004, during a clandestine operation, a device with a 30-cm bracket was implanted in the head to distinguish colors. The fact is that Neil suffers from rare genetic disorders, expressed in the absence of color vision. Of course, he did not suddenly find the ability to distinguish colors. In short, the image from the camera is transformed into sounds of different frequencies depending on the colors recorded. And Harbisson is guided in the multicolor of the world by these sounds broadcast by the implant .

    In 2013, Harbisson was upgraded by adding a Bluetooth module, which allowed him to download images from a mobile phone that other people send him. Harbisson also became the first person officially recognized as a cyborg - the British passport service set a precedent. But also by his example, he demonstrated the features of the "operation" of implanted gadgets.

    Undoubtedly, sooner or later, the use of wearable electronics will become, if not a trend, then a completely mundane phenomenon. The reason is simple - it is very convenient. It is much easier to fasten, glue, implant or even tattoo one or another gadget. For example, an implanted phone cannot be forgotten, lost, dropped into water anywhere, accidentally sit on it and crush it.

    Wearable gadgets have already become firmly established on the market, using a variety of “mounting” methods: bracelets, stickers, clips, pendants, implanted sensors and “smart” clothes, including woven and sewn electronic components. Perhaps all possible methods have already been tried.

    Moreover, the main problem of wearable gadgets already (or also) is the power supply. Even improving energy efficiency does not save. In the case of traditional smartphones, tablets and other devices, it’s enough for us to simply put them on charge at night, but this is far from always convenient for owners of wearable gadgets. But what about implanted devices? Cut live and change batteries?

    Of course, scientists continue to work to reduce the energy consumption of gadgets. For example, this chip looks very to radically improve the situation. And if this development is successful, even energy from the "environment" will be enough for long-term power supply of the devices. Perhaps at first, it will be used in addition to the main battery.

    Energy from the outside

    All potential external energy sources for gadgets can be divided into five types: photoelectric (light), thermoelectric (heat), piezoelectric (mechanical pressure / compression), electrodynamic (vibration / movement) and biological (organic chemistry, for example, using fat or sweat). Over the past 2-3 years, dozens of studies have been conducted that can be used to judge progress in all five categories. But almost all successes remain limited by the walls of laboratories, not counting a few exceptions like " biometric headphones ."

    In addition to the scientific and technical difficulties of using external energy sources, there is an important factor in the psychological unpreparedness of consumers. Devices that “feed” on the heat of our body or other forms of energy will become more acceptable to people only after some time, when wearable gadgets become familiar, like modern smartphones. The first generations of wearable gadgets will still use traditional rechargeable batteries, but within a matter of years, consumers will be ready for the “next step”.

    alternative energy

    But still this is far from a key point. The main driving force behind the introduction of alternative energy sources remains scientific and technological success. The most promising areas today are:

    • Converting human heat into electricity using fiberglass . A laboratory sample of a flexible fiberglass thermoelectric generator with a thickness of about 500 microns and a density of about 0.13 g / cm2 has already been developed. The minimum bending radius is 20 mm, and the generator performance does not change for 120 bending cycles.

    • Canalization of light using photovoltaic organic cellswoven into fabric. They are flexible and soft patches on fabrics up to 5 cm2 in area. Today, their efficiency is about 1.79%, in bright sun the density of the generated current reaches 13.11 mA / cm2.

    Converting lactates from human sweat to electricity through biotattooing. This is not a classic tattoo, but a temporary coating of a substance in which electricity is generated during a chemical reaction. Now scientists have achieved about 4 microwatts with a skin contact area of ​​6 mm2. When using larger "tattoos" managed to reach 70 microwatts.

    • Use of radio fields for the wireless supply of biometric implants and self-propelled devices for targeted drug delivery.

    Probably in the next few years we will be able to see the first commercial devices using the alternative power sources described above. Of course, if we talk about medical devices, first of all, new technologies will be used for non-life-critical purposes, certainly not for pacemakers.

    Surely the effectiveness of the first alternative power systems will be low. It is possible that they will accumulate energy 90% of the time, making a small contribution to the overall power supply of the devices. But one day the situation will change, and we will carry batteries and accumulators just for safety. And gadgets will work just fine without them.

    Oh brave new world.

    Suppose that in the next six months or a year it will be possible to radically increase the effectiveness of the described technologies. Which of them could be applied in modern devices, for example, new generations of YotaPhone? The most obvious are thermoelectric and photoelectric.

    Integration of external heat-absorbing elements into the smartphone case would significantly extend the operation of the device. Moreover, it is not necessary to keep it in your hands all the time, and a pocket is enough, just to get closer to the body. In addition, the phenomenon of heating the gadget under intense load would take on a completely different meaning. Instead of useless heat removal to the outside, one could use it to power the device itself. Recovery in its purest form.

    In the case of photovoltaic technology, an advantage would be given to those who often use a smartphone in a fairly bright light. Although this does not add comfort when working with traditional LCD displays, it is beneficial when working with EPD, electronic ink. It would be logical to place light-absorbing elements on the ends of the device. As an alternative solution, you can think of quick-detachable photoelectric covers for smartphones that generate energy in the light and immediately charge their contents by induction.

    And what methods of implementing alternative power technologies for smartphones come to your mind?

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