Wearable sensors and related devices are at the heart of the Health Tech revolution, but the question of how to power these systems remains without an optimal answer. One of the attractive solutions is to harvest energy from the surrounding environment to eliminate the need for recharging or outside power sources.
Researchers at Fraunhofer IPMS have taken a step in the right direction, so to speak, with the development of an energy harvesting module based on high-tech plastics. Instead of using piezoelectric properties, this new device uses layers of dielectric polymer thin films. The result is a small, flexible module that can be embedded in the sole of a shoe. It can then produce “several micro Watts” of electricity per second when deformed and subject to pressure, as occurs when walking. A prototype shoe has been paired with a transmitter module that can transmit data over time.
The shoe will be shown for the first time at next week’s Embedded World conference in Nuremberg, Germany, February 23 to 25. If this technology can be produced at a low cost, it could provide power for a range of wearable sensors and other other devices.