One of the biggest issues facing wearable developers at the moment, is power. Either the device doesn’t have a nice display or much function and therefore has a decent battery life, or its the complete opposite and people are having to take it off every day to charge it. However one solution in the future could equip us with a charger that generates power when we chew.
This is what researchers at the École de Technologie Supérieure (ÉTS) engineering school in Montreal, Canada, have been working on. They’ve developed a prototype chin strap, that when you’re chewing and talking, generates power, enough to charge low drawing gadgets like heading aids, and bluetooth headsets.
The strap itself, is made of a clever material called a “piezoelectric fiber composite,” which is essentially a mix of circuitry and an adhesive polymer, is able to transmit electrical charges. It’s activated when stressed by the human jaw muscles – so if we could get one of these on a Shingeki No Kyojin Titan we’d be set.
The only downside to using puny human chewing to power the device however, is that the amount of electricity generated is not very much, so while the idea of little devices like cochlear implants receiving a little boost from the technology is a nice one, no one is going to be powering their Glass headset or Apple Watch from these things any time soon.
“Given that the average power available from chewing is around 7 microwatts, we still have a long way to go,” study co-author Aidin Delnavaz said (via CNet). “However, we can multiply the power output by adding more PFC layers to the chin strap. For example, twenty PFC layers, with a total thickness of 6mm, would be able to power a 200-microwatt intelligent hearing protector.”
It’s not a cheap device to make either. A single layer of the PFC material costs as much as $20, which works out a lot more when you learn that you need 20 layers to make just one strap.
I think for now that I’ll stick with my mains charger for my phone and wearables, but this could be a step in the right direction. Make it something that fits inside your mouth and doesn’t make you look like and idiot AND something that can practically power real devices, then we’ll be on to a winner.