Friday, August 12, 2022

Battery-free smartwatch replaces battery with “miracle material”

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Researchers have invented a smartwatch-style wearable that uses what they call a “miracle material” to monitor a user’s health without requiring an external power source or battery.

The self-sufficient device, developed by a team from the University of California, Irvine, can track a wearer’s heart rate while communicating with a nearby smartphone.

Power to operate the wearable can be generated by tapping the wristband’s nano-power generators, which provide power for the sensor circuitry and LED display.

The integrated Near Field Communication (NFC) technology also enables data and power to be exchanged between the wearable and the accompanying smartphone.

An article describing the technology published in the scientific journal nano energydescribes how other aspects of health – including body temperature and blood pressure – could be monitored with a simple change in circuitry.

“This innovation achieves many significant results in one package,” said Rahim Esfandyar-Pour, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UCI.

“It enables continuous, battery-free, wireless and on-demand health monitoring anytime, anywhere. It is made of inexpensive and flexible materials and can be customized to meet a variety of wearable bioelectronic sensor needs.”

One of the invention’s greatest innovations is the use of an ultra-thin 2D material called MXenes, which exhibits unique electrical and mechanical properties. MXenes (pronounced Max-enes) have been hailed as a miracle material for their remarkable ability to store energy, purify water, and even ward off bacteria.

The pliable and stretchable material can be printed to form triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) capable of generating voltage by tapping or pressure.

“Imagine you work in a remote location – somewhere, for example in the desert on a mission, in the mountains while hiking or even on a space station – and you need to track your on-demand health information, or there is an incident, and you need to urgently and closely monitor a person’s vital signs,” Esfandyar-Pour said.

“With this self-contained and wireless device, you can do that without having to rely on a battery that can lose its charge and have the thermal problem [overheating of lithium-ion batteries that lead to combustion].”

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