Enabling Wearable Tech
Wearable technology is increasing in popularity, which is why we see more researchers tackling the challenges that are associated with them. We see flexible circuits, flexible LED screens, but we need something to power all these gizmos. One prerequisite of the classification of “wearable tech” is “mobile.” That means these devices can’t be plugged into the wall. Battery technology needs to evolve in order to join the truly wearable technologies.
Some talented nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have been able to develop printed batteries that are flexible, stretchable and rechargeable. Not only that, but they’ve also made it from commercially available materials and using existing processes. Almost sounds too good to be true, right?
Engineers: Magicians of the Modern Age
These UCSD engineers developed a mixture of zinc silver oxide, isoprene (a main ingredient of rubber), polystyrene, and bismuth oxide to build this battery. The isoprene gives the battery the flexibility, which isn’t new to batteries, but adds the dimension of stretchiness. Zinc based batteries have existed for some time, but have not been rechargeable. By adding the bismuth oxide, the battery becomes rechargeable and increases its lifetime. Not only does this battery fit the criteria for wearable tech, it fits the bill at a fraction of the cost of comparable commercially available batteries on the market today.
If you want full details on the story, check out the news article on UCSD’s website here.
What does this mean for the thermal world?
Not only do we have circuits and led screens, but now we have flexible batteries to consider when addressing the thermal impact these wearable devices will have on the end users. As our wearable tech becomes more advanced, these devices are going to consume more energy. With increased power consumption, they’ll dissipate more power as well.
A Little Too Close for Comfort
The problem lies with not only the amount of power being dissipated, but the location as well. Since wearable tech is in such close proximity to the user, too much heat is a big issue. Many applications can get away with higher temperatures, but with skin contact, we’re limited to about 40°C or about 104°F.
Being Flexible in Our Designs
As thermal engineers, we’ll be faced with a new challenge with this wave of wearable tech: thermal solutions for flexible and/or stretchy devices. Not only this, but we need to keep our solutions lightweight and robust. Think of the daily wear and tear you put on your smartphone, your keys, or anything else you travel with. We need to develop solutions that can go everywhere we go.
Think of all the awesome wearable tech we’ll be enabling by overcoming these hurdles! If you have an application like this, Aavid Engineers would love to discuss and help you out!
Exciting new times, everyone!