Sweating While You Sleep Can Power Your Devices

If you’ve got sweaty palms, finally, it’s your time to shine. Not kidding. There’s a new device that can harvest energy from your finger sweat while you sleep. It uses that energy to power small, wearable devices –– like watches or health monitors. That’s right, micro-drops of sweat can be used as a source of energy, according to a July study published in Joule.

The first of its kind, the co-first author Lu Yin from UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering said, “Unlike other sweat-powered wearables, this one requires no exercise, no physical input from the wearer in order to be useful. This work is a step forward to making wearables more practical, convenient, and accessible for the everyday person.”

Here’s what you need to know about the seemingly space-age advance in sleep technology.

It’s the Most Efficient Device Yet

A device on your finger sounds a little too close to the giant blood oxygen detector doctors put on your finger when they’re taking your blood pressure. Don’t worry; it’s nothing like that. This device is a thin, flexible strip that sits flat across your fingertip, kind of like a bandaid. The device’s electrodes have enzymes embedded that generate electricity by sparking a chemical reaction between lactate and oxygen.

Previous research in this field required the wearer to be moving to harness sweat. Past devices needed intense exercise –– like running or biking –– to reach the threshold of power generation. Not only does that make energy independence unattainable to some, but it also wasn’t nearly as effective as the latest installation. This device doesn’t rely on movement or sunlight to generate power. All it needs you to do is wear it and go to sleep. 

This is the first device that doesn’t require you to move. Oddly enough, your fingertips are one of the sweatiest parts of your body; they are packed with thousands of sweat glands. Light finger presses also work with this device –– which describes things like typing, playing piano, or texting. 

The study found that one night’s worth of sleep (10 hours) collected nearly 400 millijoules of energy. For reference, that’s enough to power an electronic watch for 24 hours. An hour of typing yielded almost 30 millijoules. It makes you wonder how much I would have collected just while writing this. 

Okay, Why Does This Matter?

If you’re wondering why any of this matters, we don’t blame you. Keep in mind these numbers are all from one sensor on one finger. That power collection would multiply by ten if you were to wear them on all of your fingers. That’s a significant amount of energy. This device is an essential step toward self-sustainable wearable electronics. 

The goal of all this is to make it a practical device that will power our electronics. Authors Yin and Wang said they are optimistic about their ability to improve the device to the point where it can take on more important health and wellness devices, like glucose meters. The idea of generating power while sleeping means that people who depend on devices like glucose meters will never have to worry about relying on batteries or charging. 

Yes, this is in the very early stages. However, the progress is promising. The team has said they intend to continue improving the device to make it more efficient, practical, and durable.

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

Creating electricity is at the tips of our fingertips (get it). The latest device in sweat power generation is the first option that doesn’t require exercise or a lot of sweat. The device is probably as annoying as wearing a bandaid on your finger, which isn’t that bad if you can power your watch for a day after one night’s sleep. 

The technology is limited right now. Still, researchers are eager to keep improving the device and make it more and more realistic for other devices. This technology has the potential to change the landscape of medical devices and wearable technology. 

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