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New Design Improves Flexible Wearable Electronics’ Performance

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Engineers have designed a flexible thermoelectric energy harvester that has the potential to rival the effectiveness of existing power wearable electronic devices using body heat as the only source of energy.

Wearable devices used to monitor a variety of health and environmental measures are becoming increasingly popular.

The performance and efficiency of flexible devices, however, pale in comparison to rigid devices, which have been superior in their ability to convert body heat into usable energy.

“We wanted to design a malleable thermoelectric harvester that does not compromise on the material quality of rigid devices yet provides similar or better efficiency,” said Mehmet Ozturk, Professor from North Carolina State University.

Ozturk , who is also the corresponding author of a paper, mentioned superior contact resistance — or skin contact — with flexible devices, as well as the ergonomic and comfort considerations to the device wearer.

Ozturk said one of the key challenges of a flexible harvester is to connect thermoelectric elements in series using reliable, low-resistivity interconnects.

The team’s future work will focus on improving the efficiency of these flexible devices, by using materials and techniques to further eliminate parasitic resistances.

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