UofG engineers develop tech that uses sweat to power devices

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Natasha Joibi
Reporter

A team of engineers from University of Glasgow have developed technology that could see wearable devices being energised by human sweat instead of environmentally-unfriendly batteries in the future.

The scientists from the Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies (BEST) group said that working up a sweat could sufficiently generate power for exercise monitors and other wearables.

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Materials, they wrote about developing a new type of flexible supercapacitor that replaces the electrolytes in conventional batteries with sweat.

The paper titled Wearable Supercapacitor based on Conductive PEDOT: PSS Coated Cloth and Sweat Electrolyte was published this month.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Royal Society funded the research, which was led by Professor Ravinder Dahiya.

Professor Dahiya, who also heads the BEST group at the James Watt School of Engineering, said the increasing popularity of wearable devices such as health monitors opens up possibilities of generating sustainable power in a safer and more environmentally-friendly way.

“Conventional batteries are cheaper and more plentiful than ever before, but they are often built using unsustainable materials which are harmful to the environment.

“That makes them challenging to dispose of safely, and potentially harmful in wearable devices, where a broken battery could spill toxic fluids onto skin.

“What we’ve been able to do for the first time is show that human sweat provides a real opportunity to do away with those toxic materials entirely, with excellent charging and discharging performance,” Dahiya said.

Dahiya and his team have developed a number of bendable technologies, including solar-powered “electronic skin” which could be used in prosthetics and robotics. They are planning to carry out research on the possibility of integrating sweat power into these devices in the future.

Dr Libu Manjakkal, who is from the BEST group and contributed to the paper, described the development as “exciting” and said they are keen to continue exploring the possibilities that sweat power could bring to the future of wearable electronics.