A sweaty proposition – power generation from human sweat

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In New York, Binghamton University received a $452,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to research generating power from human sweat. They will attempt to generate an innovative, practical and longstanding power source from human sweat, which is one of the few available energy resources on the skin, by using the metabolisms of sweat-eating bacteria.

Seokheun Choi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Ahyeon Koh, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, said that sweat-based power sources have a lot of potential. Devices that scavenge energy from sweat could be a superior substitute for conventional batteries, energy storage devices and other energy harvesting devices for future e-skin applications.

E-skins have recently emerged as a novel platform for electronics, taking on more important roles in health diagnostics, therapeutics and monitoring. While e-skins provide many benefits, they require a stable power supply. Therefore, a realistic and accessible power source is urgently needed for a next-generation of smart, stand-alone, always-on e-skin systems. However, this is a challenge because human skin intimately integrated with e-skins is an extremely harsh environment for power generation, as skin is cool, dry, acidic and lacks potential energy sources.

“The proposed sweat-powered batteries will be based on microbial fuel cells (MFCs), which will exploit sweat-eating bacteria to transform the chemical energy of sweat into electrical power through bacterial metabolism,” said Choi.