What If You Never Had to Charge Your Fitness Tracker?

This invention converts body heat into electricity, could power wearable technology

Wearable fitness trackers have become hugely popular. The plain old pedometer was blown out of the water by new technology that can measure everything from sleep quality to heart rate and those developments are just the beginning.

In the ever faster pace of technological improvements, a Professor and his research team in Korea have come up with the latest, and possibly the greatest, improvement to wearable technology since its inception. The invention is a glass fabric-based thermoelectric (TE) generator that turns body heat into electricity. In practical terms—they’ve invented a device that is flexible and powerful enough to power a wearable electronics using only your body heat.

This is big news for every electronic-based industry, but especially big news for fitness trackers; although TE generators existed prior to this particular invention, this is the first to make the generator both flexible and powerful enough to be worn.

Electrical engineering Professor Byung Jin Cho and a team of researchers at The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) were the ones who developed the generator. Their design is self-sustaining and lighter than other generators, which make this TE the only one suitable for wearable electronics.

“Our technology presents an easy and simple way of fabricating an extremely flexible, light, and high-performance TE generator,” Cho said. “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.”

According to Cho, the generator will turn out 40mW of electric power when there is a temperature difference of 31 degrees Fahrenheit between skin and the surrounding air. Since they have not said anything about production or sale, it could be years before we see this technology incorporated into our gadgets, but we’re holding out for an earlier retail debut.