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Power Felt generates electricity from body heat

By

February 22, 2012

Wake Forest University researcher Corey Hewitt, with a sample of the Power Felt

Wake Forest University researcher Corey Hewitt, with a sample of the Power Felt

Some day, your jacket may be able to power your iPod ... and no, I'm not talking about piezoelectric fabrics (which generate electricity from movement-caused pressure), nor am I talking about photovoltaic materials, although both of those could probably do the job. Instead, your jacket might be made out of a new thermoelectric material called Power Felt, that converts temperature differences into electrical voltage - in the case of the jacket, the difference between its wind-cooled exterior and its body-warmed lining might be all that was needed.

Power Felt was created by a team of researchers at North Carolina's Wake Forest University, led by graduate student Corey Hewitt. The material is made up of carbon nanotubes contained within flexible plastic fibers, and reportedly feels like regular felt. Should you choose to feel it, the temperature of your bare fingertip will be enough to create a measurable current.

Although thermoelectric energy-harvesting materials such as bismuth telluride do already exist, the researchers believe that Power Felt could be much more cost-effective - they state that integrating it into a mobile phone cover, for instance, might boost the price of that cover by only one dollar.

Along with phone covers, the material could also find use in things such as flashlight housings, pipe insulation, sports equipment, or wound wrappings. It is even suggested that the felt might be used for automobile seat upholstery, where it could utilize the driver's butt warmth to boost the car's battery or help run its electronics. Essentially, it could be used in just about any setting where it would be exposed to a wide temperature gradient.

Hewitt is presently looking into making Power Felt thinner, while boosting the number of nanotube layers, and thus its power output. The university is in the process of meeting with investors, in order to fund the commercial development of the material.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nano Letters.

Source: Wake Forest University

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
8 Comments

How much does it degrade the insulation?

Slowburn
22nd February, 2012 @ 05:54 pm PST

Yes and combine with piezo elecrrics, and photovoltaics and other layers to add strength for a product with maximum efficiency. Also a separate washable inner and outer lining then batteries will no longer be required.

Dawar Saify
23rd February, 2012 @ 08:39 am PST

Kinda like what the movie 'Matrix' was all about! (Using the human body as a power device!)

Max Mad
23rd February, 2012 @ 01:00 pm PST

Axis of Time trilogy! The devices they have get power from multiple sources, and that is one of them, right through body heat (plus solar and a battery that you can wall charge, but not the point).

Tyler Totten
23rd February, 2012 @ 07:39 pm PST

This could be used in insulating vehicle interiors. The temperature differential between heated inside and cold outside or air conditioned inside and hot outside would be a good source of power. Same goes for building insulation.

Gregg Eshelman
24th February, 2012 @ 01:34 am PST

The efficiency of a fridge or aircon might be boosted by partly covering it's heat-sink with this stuff, to utilize the waste heat, then feed the electrical energy back in.

Julian Siuksta
24th February, 2012 @ 01:04 pm PST

I like that i can power my cars electrics with my butt.

Denis Klanac
24th February, 2012 @ 11:03 pm PST

What about covering jet engine of an aircraft/airbus/boeing with it.

At the altitude of 15,000 to 50,000 ft the temp of air is -55C while temperature of the gas turbine is around 1000C making you a temperature difference of more than 1000C....

Siddharth Bhatla
25th February, 2012 @ 10:04 am PST
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