This flexible biofuel cell is powered by sweat

Scientists at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), in collaboration with other researchers at UC San Diego (United States), have developed a synthetic material integrated into a device, where it functions as an energy source using your very own sweat.

Wearable technology has been more of a hit and miss within the tech industry for the last couple of years. While most concepts are quite robust in paper, applications are mostly only within the “optional” range. They don’t nearly become as ubiquitous as other developed consumer devices within the last decade, such as smartphones.

Part of this is due to the energy requirements of the device. If the device still needs a significant amount of charging per day, then the merit of it being used passively somewhat diminishes. Especially when a specific wearable device has direct medical applications for its user.

The new synthetic stretchable device, configured as a type of biofuel cell, attempts to solve this wearable device energy issue by instead trying to recharge using only the wearer’s skin. As explained by the research, deformations on the surface of the skin generate very minute amounts of electricity “through the reduction of oxygen and the oxidation of the lactate present in perspiration“.

In other words, transforming the compounds found in sweat creates energy via chemical reactions, which the biofuel cell is able to capture as electric energy. The enzymes responsible for transforming the sweat compound are infused within a flexible conductive material, which was crafted from carbon nanotubes weaved into crosslinked polymers.

The actual amount of energy produced, as predicted, is reasonably low. The prototype device is only able to thus far generate enough electricity to light up a tiny LED. Nonetheless, because it can operate almost indefinitely at absolutely no cost, any low-energy, 24/7 electronics would benefit greatly from its use.

Besides, the researcher’s are now currently working on increasing the voltage provided by the biofuel cell, perhaps in order to one day be powerful enough to keep your Apple Watch on for as long as you sweat on it.

About the Author

Christian Crisostomo
Christian is a passionate geek who loves to let everyone know the latest in science and technology. He is also a gamer at heart and is often looking for a balanced compromise that could allow him to present both sides of his interests appreciably.

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