The University of Southampton

Body heat power for wearable technologies draws global attention in top performing paper

Published: 22 May 2020
Dr Katrina Morgan, listed as one of the top 50 downloaded physics papers for prestigious Scientific Reports journal in 2019

Researchers at the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics have highlighted the industrial potential of generating green energy from body heat in wearable technologies.

The study, led by Dr Katrina Morgan, has been listed as one of the top 50 downloaded physics papers for the prestigious Scientific Reports journal in 2019.

Flexible thermoelectric generators (TEGs) can provide uninterrupted, green energy from body heat and be made fully flexible, making them ideally placed for the wearable technologies market.

The Scientific Reports paper, titled High-throughput physical vapour deposition flexible thermoelectric generators, addresses the technology's current gap between research and commercialisation.

"I am delighted to be listed in the top 50 downloaded physics papers in Scientific Reports", Katrina says. "Being recognised for this contributes greatly to my scientific development and motivates me to continue pushing the boundaries of my research.

"When we think about wearable technology, the ideal device would be fully flexible and small in size, allowing for minimal impact on the user. Huge advances have been made in flexible displays and yet one of the challenges that still remains is a flexible power supply, currently held back by bulky batteries.

"These thermoelectric generators have great promise for wearables but are still hindered by low efficiencies. Recent advances in thin film materials demonstrate the potential to overcome these efficiency limits and yet the transfer from research to industry is very much lacking in this field."

Results from the TEGs research has led to the 4m Euros Smart2Go European research and innovation programme, which brings together 11 academic and industrial partners including the University of Southampton. The programme's TEG devices could find applications in Atomic skis for real-time monitoring of in-ski stress and in Helly Hansen's clothing line, where the TEG could power safety equipment and sensors when the garments are worn in harsh environments.

Scientific Reports published more than 1,000 physics papers in 2019, placing Katrina's report within the top 5% of the platform's most downloaded papers. The open-access journal, which is part of the Nature Research group, publishes peer-reviewed research from across the natural and clinical sciences.

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