The human body is a power plant

What if you could charge your smartwatch using your own body heat? It may sound like science fiction, but an innovative Swiss startup is making it a reality.

Our bodies are essentially heat engines that generate 3 kWh of thermal energy every single day. That’s enough to theoretically power a television for 30 hours. We say ‘theoretically’ because while the energy is there, the trick is working out how to actually harness it. Mithras Technology thinks that they might have the answer to ensure all that excess energy doesn’t go to waste.

We all know that the human body has the capacity to produce heat. We consume food which is then converted into the chemical energy our bodies need to survive. However, some of this energy ends up being expelled back out into the environment, which is why our skin often feels warm to the touch. It’s this difference in temperature, between the human body and the outside world, which can be used to generate electricity, thanks to a thermoelectric generator (TEG).

In order to capture the energy, one side of the TEG has to be in contact with the skin, and the other with the environment. The device can then convert the temperature difference between the two sides into emission-free electricity. The process works even when the temperature difference is as small as one degree. The phenomenon itself is nothing new, but the idea to use this science to turn humans into portable power stations certainly is. It goes to show – when resources are limited, creative solutions can be found.

Mithras Technology plans to initially focus on the medical industry, where there are practical applications for TEGs in the field of monitoring equipment that requires batteries, such as hearing aids and insulin monitors. But the wider possibilities are endless. Imagine a completely autonomous wearable device that has the ability to recharge your tech without the need to plug anything in. You could power your phone on your own steam, with no environmental impact, for free, with no effort involved! In the context of rapidly rising energy costs and a need for ambitious, sustainable action, it certainly makes you wonder. What if the answer has been lying within us all along?