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Energy can be generated from sweaty fingertips

A new piece of technology can create energy from sweat on your fingertips while you sleep. In a study published by Cell Press, scientists report that their device can create 300 millijoules (mJ) of electricity per square centimeter while the person wearing it sleeps for ten hours. 

The scientists hope to integrate this technology into easily wearable forms, like gloves. Their device could generate energy with simple, easy tasks such as typing.

The study represents a large technical advance. Previous technology generating electricity from sweat required heavy workouts. The energy input of such devices made them inefficient, often creating just a one percent return from the amount of energy put in. 

Study lead author Joseph Wang is a professor at the University of California, San Diego.

“Normally, you want maximum return on investment in energy,” said Professor Wang. “You don’t want to expend a lot of energy through exercise to get only a little energy back.” 

“But here, we wanted to create a device adapted to daily activity that requires almost no energy investment – you can completely forget about the device and go to sleep or do desk work like typing, yet still continue to generate energy. You can call it ‘power from doing nothing.’ ”

The scientists claim that the little bit of electricity generated from the fingertips into the device is enough to power small wearable technology.

Interestingly, using the fingertips for sweat harvesting was no accident. We have more sweat glands in our fingers than anywhere else on our body. 

The device appears to be a piece of foam connected to electronics. The technology uses lactate, a component of sweat as a biofuel to generate electricity. 

Beyond containing the sweat harvesting technology, the new tech also contains generators that make electricity from movement, creating up to 20 percent more electricity. 

The study is published in the journal Joule.

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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