Thermoelectric wristband for personal temperature control

September 28, 2017 // By Nick Flaherty
Four engineering students at MIT in the US have created a wearable thermoelectric wristband to directly control your temperature.

The Embr Wave has a thermoelectric tile that changes temperature when exposed to an electrical current. During heating, the current goes into the plate, creating heat waves. When cooling, the device dissipates heat with aid of the aluminum body. The flat aluminum top includes a colour display that users adjust from blue to red to provide cooling or warming.

“The aim is to make “temperature personal,” says Embr Labs co-founder David Cohen-Tanugi. “We want people who are often uncomfortable and have little control over temperature to have more control and more relief in everyday life,” he says.

The team had to optimize for the various thermoreceptors on the skin of the wrist that all respond differently to certain temperature ranges, and to develop efficient ways to move heat around and out of a small wearable. A key innovation was finding a way to deliver heat in waves. To avoid becoming accotomed to the higher or lower temperature, the startup developed a method for delivering rhythmic waves of temperature that fade in and out, which stops users from acclimating to one sensation and constantly increasing the heat. Additionally, the speed of the waves delivered to the skin can have psychological impacts over time. Faster waves tend to energize people, while slower waves are more relaxing. This can affect a user’s thermal comfort, so the startup had to design around those considerations.

“We had to go from power electronics and mechanical engineering to physiology and psychology, in order to build a framework of dynamic heat rhythms that would pack as much temperature relief as possible in a sleek wristband,” said Cohen-Tanugi. “It was a whole new technological challenge.”

He says the device could help curb energy use in buildings. Studies at the Centre for the Built Environment at the University of California at Berkeley have shown that if a building’s thermostat neutral zone — the temperature range before air conditioning or heating switches