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Frontiers in Energy >> 2010, Volume 4, Issue 3 doi: 10.1007/s11708-010-0112-z

Evaluation of the power-generation capacity of wearable thermoelectric power generator

1.Key Laboratory of Cryogenics, Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China; 2.Key Laboratory of Cryogenics, Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Bejing 100190, China; Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of Medicine, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China;

Available online: 2010-09-05

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Employing thermoelectric generators (TEGs) to gather heat dissipating from the human body through the skin surface is a promising way to supply electronic power to wearable and pocket electronics. The uniqueness of this method lies in its direct utilization of the temperature difference between the environment and the human body, and complete elimination of power maintenance problems. However, most of the previous investigations on thermal energy harvesters are confined to the TEG and electronic system themselves because of the low quality of human energy. We evaluate the energy generation capacity of a wearable TEG subject to various conditions based on biological heat transfer theory. Through numerical simulation and corresponding parametric studies, we find that the temperature distribution in the thermopiles affects the criterion of the voltage output, suggesting that the temperature difference in a single point can be adopted as the criterion for uniform temperature distribution. However, the criterion has to be shifted to the sum of temperature difference on each thermocouple when the temperature distribution is inconsistent. In addition, the performance of the thermal energy harvester can be easily influenced by environmental conditions, as well as the physiological state and physical characteristics of the human body. To further validate the calculation results for the wearable TEG, a series of conceptual experiments are performed on a number of typical cases. The numerical simulation provides a good overview of the electricity generation capability of the TEG, which may prove useful in the design of future thermal energy harvesters.

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