Scientists develop novel wearable technology from recycled waste

A research team from the University of Surrey have created energy-harvesting wearable technology made from recycled waste.

Wearable technology has gained popularity over the past decade and devices, such as smartwatches, have become a necessity in people’s day to day life. The benefits of such technology is the ability to detect, monitor and transmit information regarding factors, such as heartrate, to mobile devices where the information can be reviewed and considered on a broad scale.

It is because of this popularity that scientists are experimenting with potential manners of construction that are better for the environment. The prototype created by scientists has revolutionised the scientific community, and it is expected that wearable technology could soon be entirely made of recycled waste materials and powered by human movement, because of this experiment.

How did scientists create this prototype?

Researchers developed a wrist device made from discarded paper wipes and plastic cups that runs on energy harvested by the wearer’s movements. The prototype device can transmit morse code, and the team is now focusing on plans to use this technology in smartwatches.

Dr Bhaskar Dudem, project lead and Research Fellow at the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI), said: “It would not be long until we have to ask ourselves which of the items we own are not connected to the internet. However, the current internet-of-things (IoT) revolution highlights the simple fact that our planet does not have the raw resources to continue to make these devices which are in such high demand.

“Our research demonstrates that there is a path to creating sustainable technology that runs on electricity powered by us, the users of that technology.”

How does this technology work?

Surrey’s device is ‘self-powered’ due to materials that become electrically charged after they come into contact with one another. These materials (also known as Triboelectric Nanogenerators (TENGs)) use static charge to harvest energy from movement through a process called electrostatic induction.

Scientists intend for their energy-harvesting wearable technology to potentially be a game-changer for the consumer, medical and security sectors.

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of ATI at the University of Surrey, concluded: “The core mission of the Advanced Technology Institute is to help build a world where clean energy is available to all. Our energy-harvesting technology embodies this key mission, and we stand ready to work with industry to ensure this technology reaches its full potential.”

The research was published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

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