Wearable microgrids use the human body to sustainably power small gadgets. Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), CA/USA, have developed a wearable microgrid that harvests and stores energy from the human body to power small electronics.
It consists of 3 main parts: sweat-powered biofuel cells, motion-powered devices called triboelectric generators, and energy-storing supercapacitors. All parts are flexible, washable and can be screen printed onto clothing.
The wearable microgrid is built from a combination of flexible electronic parts that were developed by the Nanobioelectronics team of UC San Diego nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang. Each part is screen printed onto a shirt and placed in a way that optimizes the amount of energy collected.
Biofuel cells that harvest energy from sweat are located inside the shirt at the chest. Devices that convert energy from movement into electricity, called triboelectric generators, are positioned outside the shirt on the forearms and sides of the torso near the waist. They harvest energy from the swinging movement of the arms against the torso while walking or running. Supercapacitors outside the shirt on the chest temporarily store energy from both devices and then discharge it to power small electronics.