Thermoelectric systems are based on technology that leverages differences in temperature to generate electricity, and we’ve seen how this approach can be applied to the world’s tiniest refrigerator, cooking pots that power smartphones and even thermoelectric paint. A new example from scientists at the University of Colorado (UC) explores the everyday potential of this technology, demonstrated as a ring that harvests energy from the human body and can even repair itself when damaged.
The thermoelectric ring is an extension of earlier research from the group of UC mechanical engineers, who in 2018 demonstrated a type of electronic skin that could bend, twist, and conform to the actual skin of its wearer. Embedded with sensors, the skin was designed to function as a discreet wearable computer, but perhaps its coolest function was that it could heal itself when damaged.
This was due to the structure of the e-skin, which consisted of a special polymer called polyimine that was doped with silver nanoparticles, creating a chemical bond that could mend itself in the event of a tear. This attribute is again a key feature of the team’s newest device, though unlike the e-skin, the thermoelectric ring doesn’t need to be hooked up to an external power source.