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Power Pocket prototype uses body heat to charge a smartphone

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June 13, 2013

The Power Pocket woven into a sleeping bag

The Power Pocket woven into a sleeping bag

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Vodafone is to trial prototype phone-charging technology at the Isle of Wight festival this weekend. Developed by the University of Southampton's Electronics and Computer Science Department, the Power Pocket exploits the Seebeck effect, exploiting the difference in temperature between the human body and its surroundings to generate an electrical current which can be used to recharge a smartphone. Vodafone has woven the pocket into a sleeping bag (called Recharge) and a pair of shorts (called Power shorts) to test the technology.

"Basically, we're printing down pairs of what are called 'thermocouples,'" says the University of Southmapton's Professor of Electronic Systems, Steve Beeby. "You print lots of those down and connect them up to make a thermoelectric module." The product is the culmination of decades of research into printed, smart and thermoelectric materials, Beeby explains in a press release.

The Power Pocket sewn into a pair of shorts. Hopefully male garments will also be availabl...

The Power Pocket sewn into a pair of shorts. Hopefully male garments will also be available

Beeby says that an eight-hour sleep will provide 24 minutes of talk time or 11 hours of standby time (though this will depend on the phone, clearly). "That's assuming the inside of the sleeping bag is 37 degrees," he says in the press release. But what's the corresponding ambient temperature required for this performance? "The calculations assumed an ambient temperature of 10º C but that 17º C might be lost across other materials i.e. the thermoelectric module sees 10º C," Beeby tells Gizmag. The actual current and voltage were not calculated, but could be based on Seebeck coefficients, he explained.

The material is still in development, and there is more work to do so far as durability goes. However, Beeby estimates that, what with similar research going on elsewhere (see Power Felt, for example), thermoelectric materials will be woven into clothing as a matter of course over the next decade.

Orange's thermoelectric boots from 2010

Orange's thermoelectric boots from 2010

As Beeby notes, this isn't a unique idea. In fact Vodafone's competitor Orange pulled a similar stunt with thermoelectric Wellies for Glastonbury Festival a few years ago.

Source: Vodafone

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
2 Comments

If they can make it durable and lighter than the batteries it displaces soldiers battle dress uniforms would be a good use for the tech.

Slowburn
14th June, 2013 @ 12:28 am PDT

Borderline creepy for me, my always on NSA monitored device will now be sucking off of my body heat for its energy?!?!? Reminds me of humans plugged into the matrix for power in The Matrix.

Ronin395
14th June, 2013 @ 05:02 am PDT
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