A Method That Eliminates the Need for Batteries and Chargers in Wearables

6 months ago by Luke James

Backed by a $367,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, an electrical engineering team at the University of North Texas (UNT) is developing a new self-powered wearable sensor that could be used in common wearable devices.

Ifana Mahbub, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of North Texas (UNT), is heading up a team that hopes to develop a new, self-powered wearable sensor that could be used to track motion activities such as walking, running, or cycling and wirelessly transmit it. The team also hopes that their sensor could eradicate the need for the use of batteries and chargers in common wearable sensors such as the Apple Watch. 

The UNT team’s research is backed by a $367,994 grant from the National Science Foundation

Mahbub, who received her BSc in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the Bangladesh University of Engineering before pursuing a PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, said, “The novelty of this project is that we’re going to use the electrical energy generated when liquids repeatedly come into contact with a charged electrode. This phenomenon, termed reverse electrowetting, produces a very small amount of electrical energy but when the electrode is very porous, we believe that we will be able to produce 50 times more energy than competing energy harvesting mechanisms.” 

Prior to taking up her post as an assistant professor at UNT, Mahbub worked for Qorvo, Inc. in Massachusetts. She added, “Also, the efficiency of current energy harvesting approaches is rather poor at lower frequencies, and we want to see if our method will allow us to create smaller and energy-efficient devices that can yield higher power.”

 

University of North Texas researchers involved with the self-powered wearable sensor development.

University of North Texas researchers involved with the self-powered wearable sensor development. Image Credit: University of North Texas.

 

By measuring the frequency of the wearer’s movement, the team wants to be able to develop the sensor so that it can identify the type of motion that is taking place. The sensor will also include an integrated circuit chip for efficient energy harvesting for industrial and biomedical applications. 

The UNT research project also includes an educational aspect for K-12 students who are interested in STEM. 

“This summer, the departments of Electrical Engineering and Mechanical and Energy Engineering at UNT are partnering up to provide an energy harvesting activity for students who enroll in our summer camp,” said Mahbub. “Eventually, we’re going to expand the summer camp to include a wearable device track that students could choose to specialize in.”

More information is expected as the UNT project gets fully underway.

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