OCT 10, 2021 11:00 AM PDT

Wearable Patch Creates Electricity From Simple Body Motion

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Wearable technologies have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially in the medical field. New technologies are emerging every day that give people the ability to better monitor their health, from watches that can measure pulse and other vital information to implantable devices that can help regulate heart activity.

However, despite the opportunities these technologies afford, they have their own set of limitations that researchers are aiming to overcoming. The most notable limitation is that many devices are powered by batteries that either need to be changed or charged regularly, meaning that wearable devices cannot be worn consistently. For some devices, such as those that monitor sleep habits, this limitation affects the quality of data collected. 

According to a new study published in Nature Materials, researchers have designed a patch that can generate electricity from simple body movements, even movement as subtle as a wearer’s pulse. The patch could offer a new way for important medical wearable and implantable devices to stay powered, and has potential as a medical sensor of its own (e.g., for measuring pulse). The patch is also waterproof; researchers soaked the patch in human sweat, but it maintained its ability to function properly.

The patch is silicon and made up of small magnets, and it’s the magnets that generate electricity. Designed with the magnetoelastic effect in mind, the patch generates electricity as it (and the body) moves. Movement changes the distance between magnets, which in turn changes their magnetic field. It is this change to the magnetic field that generates electricity, creating a flexible, renewable source of power. 

One of the researchers, Jun Chen, noted that “what makes this technology unique is that it allows people to stretch and move with comfort when the device is pressed against human skin, and because it relies on magnetism rather than electricity, humidity and our own sweat do not compromise its effectiveness.”

Sources: Medgadget; Nature Materials; Forbes

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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