‘Human Battery’ Sounds Much Creepier Than It Actually Is

A new wearable chip will convert human body heat to renewable clean energy.
The latest technology is closer to "The Matrix" than anyone anticipated. (Photo: Rachel Papo/Getty Images)
Jan 17, 2013· 2 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Are you ready to have your energy "harvested"? It's not as bizarre as it sounds. A startup in Oregon is convinced that when it comes to providing the most easily renewable, sustainable and clean forms of energy, nothing beats a person’s own body heat.

The company, known as Perpetua Power, created a wireless chip that transforms body heat into an electrical energy source capable of powering small personal devices. This could signal the end of small battery usage as we know it.

Named TEGWear, the wearable chip harnesses the electrons released when the body produces heat. It then transforms those electrons into electricity. But that doesn’t mean the user needs to furiously stay in motion in order to keep an electrical charge; body heat is generated even when you’re asleep. And as long as the chip is touching the skin or separated by no more than a thin layer of clothing, TEGWear will stay powered.

MORE: Kelvin Doe, a 15-Year-Old Inventor, Wows at MIT

The thumbnail-sized chip can be incorporated into wearable articles like T-shirts, or accessories like watches and wristbands.

Jerry Wiant, the vice president of marketing for Perpetua Power, tells TakePart that TEGWear's applications are extensive, but perhaps most immediately applicable to areas of health. “Today, about 75 percent of patients do not comply with their medical prescriptions. With the expected high growth in…wearable monitoring devices, battery life is a major issue and is anticipated to contribute to non-compliance percentage rate unless a solution is found. We expect energy harvesting to play a significant role in allowing devices to work longer.”

In addition to monitoring the health of wearers, TEGWear will also monitor their whereabouts. According to FastCompany, the National Science Foundation recently gave Perpetua Power a grant to create a prototype wristband for Alzheimer’s patients that will pinpoint their location if they get lost or go missing.

That same capability could prove useful to the military, where TEGWear could locate missing soldiers, and also remotely monitor their health.

Wiant reports that the technology is also being tested for other applications, like disaster relief. When worn, a chip-powered jacket could possibly provide light and heat in the midst of power outages. With a shelf life that extends beyond 10 years, the technology is impervious to decay—meaning it can sit on a shelf for over a decade and still be as good as new when you finally need it. TEGWear is certainly more reliable than rechargeable batteries because, according to Winant, it doesn’t rely on stored energy.

The most exciting benefit of TEGWear is it may allow us to forgo battery usage altogether. Though batteries can now be recycled, plenty of households still don’t, sending poisonous metals into our landfills and therefore, our soil and water supplies.

Perpetua Power won't release the chip into the market until 2014, and initially its uses will be focused primarily on powering small personal devices like pedometers and hearing aids.

But as its applications expand, the body-heat-powered chip could become a launching point for an entirely new era in our culture; one where no one goes missing and energy will no longer be synonymous with waste.

Are you ready to become a human battery? Let us know what you think of TEGWear in the Comments.