Thermocell boost for wearable designs

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Researchers at the NUST MISIS university in Moscow have developed a new type of energy-efficient thermocell to converter body heat into energy. This will make possible creation of portable batteries that can be applied to virtually any surface, including clothing, to generate electricity directly from the surface of the body.

The team boosted the performance of the thermocell by using metal oxide electrodes and an aqueous electrolyte. This combination increases the current while simultaneously reducing the internal resistance of the element. The researchers say the thermocell gives the output an increase in power by 10 to 20 times compared to other systems with an output voltage up to 0.2 V at an electrode temperature of up to 85° C.

The results are presented in the Renewable Energy journal.

“We have shown the possibility of using a nickel oxide electrode based on hollow nickel microspheres in a thermocell. A record for aqueous electrolytes hypothetical Seebeck coefficient has been reached. In addition, we have found a nonlinear change in current-voltage characteristics, which is not typical for thermocells, which ensures an increase in the device’s efficiency,” said Igor Burmistrov, one of the authors of the work, a scientist from NUST MISIS.

The high Seebeck coefficient will allow even the heat of the human body to be used as an energy source. There is another significant advantage of the new structure – the use of an aqueous electrolyte reduces the cost of production and increases the safety of the system.

The next step is to increase the output power by optimizing the composition of the electrode material and improving the design of the thermocell. In the future, it is possible to create a supercapacitor that would retain its charge for a long time.

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