Researchers in Germany have found a way to use body heat to generate electrical power, a technology that could transform electronics even as it evokes visions of the human batteries from The Matrix. The current technology generates very little power, around 1/5 of a volt, as it operates using the difference between body heat and ambient temperature. The difference would have to be over 20 degrees in order for the current technology to generate the two volts necessary to run today’s cell phones.

Body Heat Used to Power Electronics (Discovery News)

Even with the small amounts of power provided, researchers have been able to create “entire electronic systems” that use nothing but body heat to operate, including a wireless transmitter that sends data about generated electricity to a computer. The miniscule amount of power that can be generated with the current technology could be used to power pacemakers or implants in the brains of Parkinsons patients and improvements in the technology could eventually allow body heat to supplement battery power for laptops and cell phones. Research in the field of electronic power sources is frenetic, with many companies trying to find a power source that is both safe and long lasting, and many feel that fuel cells are on the verge of taking the place of Lithium-Ion batteries used in nearly all laptops today.

Researchers use body heat to make power (Science Daily)

Body heat could power pacemakers (BBC News)

Tiny Fuel Cell Might Replace Batteries In Laptop Computers, Portable Electronics (Science Daily)

Advances like these are what give me hope that the “wearable computer” is not too far in the future. I have longed for a computer small and light enough that I could simply put it on in the form of a belt or vest without heavy components weighing me down, and the battery is one of the heaviest pieces of a laptop. In addition, medical applications and combinations with nanotechnology make this one of the more significant advances in recent years. What applications do you see with this type of technology?