The sweat from human fingertips could soon power smartwatches and other wearables
Ingenious engineers at the University of California San Diego have recently presented an intriguing research project which could have a major impact on the ever-growing wearables market. Their invention is a tiny biofuel cell which is so small and thin that it can be comfortably attached to one's fingertips. In basic terms, the cell is able to utilize the chemical energy of human sweat in order to produce electric energy. Additionally, a miniaturized piezoelectric generator can harvest the kinetic energy that is produced when a finger is pressed against another object, for example the touchscreen of a smartphone.
The device is particularly fascinating because it can produce energy passively, the user does not have to be physically active or produce an unusual amount of sweat for the biofuel cell to work. Even when sleeping, the cell can currently harvest 0.1 mWh of energy for every ten hours of sleep.
It may not sound like much, but the amount of energy can be easily increased by wearing one biofuel cell on every single finger. Even though this would still not be enough to power an Apple Watch (US$319 on Amazon) at the present time, it's an exciting concept that demonstrates how smartwatches, wearables and other sensors could soon be powered by bioenergy that is constantly produced by the human body.