To be successful, wearable Health Tech devices must be lightweight and flexible in order to be unobtrusive. Digital devices need electrical power, but batteries tend to be rigid and hard. Researchers are working to create flexible forms of power storage, and one of the most promising approaches is the use of supercapacitors. Like a battery, they can store a great deal of electricity in a small volume and weight. Like a capacitor, however, they can discharge and recharge rapidly.
Scientists at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland are working with conductive polymers to create flexible supercapacitors. These organic plastic materials based on cellulose will conduct electricity and are safe for the human body. They also can decompose easily, making them more convenient to recycle than metal-based batteries. The resulting device has an operating voltage of 2.2 Volts, and has been demonstrated to retain nearly 100% efficiency even after 15,000 charging cycles. The power density of 2.2 microWatts per square centimeter should be sufficient to provide power to implanted sensors and other wearable devices.
Coupled with a wireless recharging or energy harvesting technology, these new supercapacitors could provide power needed for a range of Health Tech devices. The result would be a “set it and forget it” system that would be unobtrusive and convenient to use.