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Business & Technology

Scientists Find Way to Convert Sweat into Electricity

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Scientists Find Way to Convert Sweat into Electricity

2014-08-18 12:47:53

-by Yuliya Geikhman, Staff Writer; Image: Tennis player Dinara Safina of Russia in the middle of a game. Sweat from physical activities such as tennis could soon be used as a source of power. (Image Source: Tsutomu Takasu / Wikimedia Commons)

Your workout routine may soon charge your smartphone or power your MP3 player or iPod, thanks to an innovative temporary tattoo.

Scientists at the University of California San Diego have come up with a way to convert sweat into electricity to create a “biobattery” powered by your own body.

When a person exercises particularly strenuously, their body starts a process called glycolysis. This process produces energy and lactate, the latter of which can be detected and measured. Until now, measuring lactate has been expensive and invasive. Now researchers have developed a way to imprint a flexible lactate sensor into a temporary tattoo.

To form a biobattery out of the sensor, researchers introduced an enzyme that strips the electrons off the lactate, and a molecule that takes them in. This produces electricity in much the same way a regular battery does.

The amounts of electricity generated at this point are negligible, not even enough to power a watch. But the team wants to take the next steps towards making sweat-powered electricity possible, and are now looking for a way to increase the power generated by these sweat-powered biobatteries.

Differences in body type and fitness level also influence how quickly and how much electricity the batteries create. In the study, the less fit participants got better results than those who exercise one to three times per week. This may be explained by the fact that the less fit a person is, the quicker their body becomes tired and prompts the glycolysis to begin.

Aside from applications of convenience like powering your watch or mobile device, this temporary tattoo battery can be used in the medical field—to run a pacemaker, for example - to sport and even military applications. Since the biobattery is entirely organic there are no toxic chemicals and no risk for explosions or leaks.

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