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article imageSmartwatches could be charged by wrist motion

By Tim Sandle     May 15, 2017 in Technology
It may be possible to charge smart watches simply through body motions, such as tilting the wrist to view the face of the watch, a new technology study suggests. This is possible through the use of triboelectric nanogenerators.
Triboelectric nanogenerators are tiny devices which function to convert movement into electricity. For some scientists these provide the basis for next-generation wearables and smart devices, in the form of ‘smart’ clothes, smart watches and body implants. A Nanogenerator is a system that converts the mechanical or thermal energy generated by small-scale physical change into electricity. A triboelectric nanogenerator converts mechanical energy into electricity.
The study from the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) in South Korea suggests that the mechanical energy produced by typical body motions, even very slight movements, can be sufficient to keep a watch or smartphone operational.
The South Korean researchers have successfully demonstrated the ability of the mechanical energy produced by day-to-day body motions to power wearbale device.
According to the lead technologist Dr. Hyeon-Jin Shin: "We studied the possibility of charging commercialized portable and wearable devices by utilizing the mechanical energy generated by human motion.” The outcome was to design a process whereby “the mechanical energy is entirely converted into electrical energy.” Here the energy generated from an arm being moved around each day an arm is sufficient to power a smart watch. This level of activity is described as a “semi-passive” activity.
The researchers found that the energy produced in one minute by typical body movements, like swinging an arm, was comparable to the energy by most commercial electronics and wearables. The key factors related velocity (in the form of kinetic energy) and elasticity (impulse).
The researchers plan to further develop triboelectric nanogenerators for electronic devices, with the aim of ending the dependency on batteries for a host of wearbale devices. The optimization process will take a little time, given the complications of achieving stability in the overall device structure.
The research is published in the journal APL Materials and the research paper is titled “Potential role of motion for enhancing maximum output energy of triboelectric nanogenerator.”
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