Turning Humans into Batteries: New Skin Patch Invention Could Power Up Wearable Technology

Soon it might be time to say ‘bye-bye’ to the batteries we use in technology that we wear, like with the smartwatch, or the fitness tracker, and someday maybe even the smartphone.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore unveiled a new device that they invented at the 28th IEEE International Conference on Micro Mechanical Systems (2015), which was held last week in Estoril, Portugal.

The device is the size of a postage-stamp and it’s a simple skin patch that utilizes static electricity from the body and converts it into actual electrical energy.

Photo from IEEE International/2015: The skin patch marks an exciting chapter in wearable technology as it will turn humans into actual batteries.Photo from IEEE International/2015: The skin patch marks an exciting chapter in wearable technology as it will turn humans into actual batteries.

The skin patch marks an exciting chapter in wearable technology as it will turn humans into actual batteries.

According to their report, the skin patch – also dubbed as a “small smart generator” - will produce “90 volts of open circuit voltage when touched lightly with a finger.”

Using energy from the human body to generate power is a big breakthrough as nanoengineers around the world have long been searching for ways to have the body actually power up a variety of electronics.

The report they presented states: “This friction-inducing phenomenon, called the ‘triboelectric effect,’ electrical charge builds up on two dissimilar surfaces when they are put into close contact… When they are pulled apart or flexed, a potential difference is generated and a current starts flowing between them that can be collected using an electrode.”

Lokesh Dhakar, one of the team’s lead researchers explains that “skin, the most abundant surface on a human body, is a natural choice for one of the triboelectric layers.” 

“Device fabrication becomes simpler because you don’t need to make one of the layers,” he says.

“Also skin as a triboelectric material has a high tendency to donate electrons or get positively charged which is important in improving the performance of the device if the other triboelectric layer intentionally chosen as the one with a tendency to get negatively charged," he adds.

Since the invention is still in its early phase, the team has not yet indicated when their invention will hit the market.

Of course when it does it will be a smash hit as people will enjoy the fact that they no longer need to charge up their batteries when using wearable and communication devices of sorts.