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Wearable electronics demonstrated with thermoelectric generator

Wearable electronics demonstrated with thermoelectric generator

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News & Events - Engineering News

April 11, 2014

Bringing technology to new levels of portability, such as wearable electronics, requires innovations in engineering research and development. However, there a various obstacles to creating devices that can worn on the body. The problem of powering such instruments is one of the major difficulties preventing them from becoming widespread, scientists from KAIST have found a way to solve this dilemma with a glass fabric thermoelectric generator, according to a news release.

The team of researchers created the mobile energy source by printing thermoelectric substances on glass fabric. The p- and n-type semiconductors applied to the textile were synthesized in the form of semi-liquid mush. After being administered to the fabric, the pastes pervaded its latticework, creating thin structures with microscale diameters.

"For our case, the glass fabric itself serves as the upper and lower substrates of a TE generator, keeping the inorganic TE materials in between," said Byung Jin Cho, said professor of electrical engineering at KAIST, in the news release. "This is quite a revolutionary approach to design a generator. In so doing, we were able to significantly reduce the weight of our generator, which is an essential element for wearable electronics."

The use of the glass fabric to fulfill substrate functions helps to avoid the energy loss associated with bulky exterior components. Moreover, the textile foundation allows the utilization of inorganic materials, which generate more power than their organic equivalents, without compromising flexibility.

Flexible fabric
Cho and his colleagues detail their work in study published in Energy and Environmental Science, explaining the methods and results used to create the pliable power source. The device devised by the team is capable of being bent to radius of 20 millimeters and can be contorted without operational variations for 120 cycles.

The glass fabric generator also produced energy yields that exceed those of previously fabricated pliant thermoelectric dynamos. Specifically, the apparatus developed by the KAIST scientists generated multiple tens of times more electricity than prior instruments.

"Our technology presents an easy and simple way of fabricating an extremely flexible, light, and high-performance TE generator," Cho said in the news release. "We expect that this technology will find further applications in scale-up systems such as automobiles, factories, aircrafts, and vessels where we see abundant thermal energy being wasted."

The KAIST team has made a significant contribution to the growing engineering database of knowledge that may lead to the creation of wearable devices.

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