Nano Research

Article Title

Flexible thermocells for utilization of body heat


wearable thermocell, body heat, waste heat recovery, carbon nanotubes, activated carbon textile, porous electrode


Plastic thermo-electrochemical cells (thermocells) involving aqueous potassium ferricyanide/ferrocyanide electrolyte have been investigated as an alternative to conventional thermoelectrics for thermal energy harvesting. Plastic thermocells that consist of all pliable materials such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), fabrics, and wires are flexible enough to be wearable on the human body and to be wrapped around cylindrical shapes. The performance of the thermocells is enhanced by incorporating carbon nanotubes into activated carbon textiles, due to improved charge transfer at the interface. In cold weather conditions (a surrounding temperature of 5 °C), the thermocell generates a short-circuit current density of 0.39 A/m2 and maximum power density of 0.46 mW/m2 from body heat (temperature of 36 °C). For practical use, we have shown that the thermocell charges up a capacitor when worn on a T-shirt by a person. We also have demonstrated that the electrical energy generated from waste pipe heat using a serial array of the thermocells and voltage converters can power a typical commercial light emitting diode (LED).

Graphical Abstract


Tsinghua University Press