Technology 2 min read

Researchers Develop New Super-Efficient Heat-Harvesting Fabric

Wool fabric | Engin_Akyurt |

Wool fabric | Engin_Akyurt |

Instead of collecting heat from the sun or surroundings, this newly developed heat-harvesting fabric gathers body heat and turns it into useful energy.

Researchers from the University of Massachusets Amherst noted that their technology could potentially be an efficient source of power for wearable devices.

According to Trisha Andrew, a materials chemist at the University of Massachusets Amherst, and her Ph.D. student Linden Allison, while many data transmitters and health monitors today have already been “creatively miniaturized,” making them work is challenging as they require a lot of energy produced by heavy power sources.

“What we have developed is a way to inexpensively vapor-print biocompatible, flexible and lightweight polymer films made of every day, abundant materials onto cotton fabrics that have high enough thermoelectric properties to yield fairly high thermal voltage, enough to power a small device,” Andrew said.

The heat-harvesting fabric developed by the UMass Amherst researchers
The heat-harvesting fabric developed by the UMass Amherst researchers | University of Massachusetts Amherst

Body Heat-Harvesting Fabric

In their study published in the journal Advanced Materials Technology, Andrew and Allison explained how exploiting the difference between body temperature and ambient cooler air can turn body heat into useful power.

According to the duo, materials with high electrical and low thermal conductivities move electrical charge from warmer to cooler regions through this method.

To develop their heat-harvesting fabric, the two scientists took advantage of wool and cotton’s natural low heat transport properties.

The thermoelectric garment they created can allegedly maintain a temperature gradient over an electronic device which turns the heat collected by the fabric into electrical energy.

“Essentially, we capitalized on the basic insulating property of fabrics to solve a long-standing problem in the device community,” Allison explained further.

“We believe this work will be interesting to device engineers who seek to explore new energy sources for wearable electronics and designers interested in creating smart garments.”

Do you agree that body heat should be considered a sustainable source of energy?

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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