Temporary Tattoo as a Smartphone Charger

Thursday, August 28, 2014 @ 06:08 PM gHale

A temporary tattoo, charged by your sweat, may soon be able to act as a battery.

This small biobattery was the end result of a different study that was focusing on measuring lactate, the acid that builds up in your muscles when you exercise, said researchers at the University of California at San Diego.

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When you exert yourself during tough exercise, your body has to create more energy once you run out of it. That energy creation process is glycolysis, but it has a byproduct called lactate, which isn’t so great for muscles. Scientists can measure lactate to analyze the progress of a workout.

Researchers decided since lactate can end up measured in a person’s sweat, too, they would make a film to place on the users’ skin to measure the amounts of acid produced by various levels of exercise.

They embedded a lactate sensor patch into a temporary tattoo, so that they could keep tabs on the acid without having to prick athletes with a needle.

Then, the scientists realized that during the process of measuring lactate, they had to remove electrons and doing so effectively made half of a battery cell.

Once they realized they were on to something great, the researchers added a cathode to complete the battery. After all, the anode already had the necessary enzyme to remove the electrons from lactate that can then send over to the cathode, which contains a molecule that takes the electrons.

“We came up with this idea of harvesting energy from the body in a non-invasive manner,” said UC nanoengineering professor Dr. Joseph Wang. The resulting prototype is what Wang calls “the first example of a biofuel cell that harvests energy from body fluid.”

Not only does the temporary tattoo offer battery power, it also tracks lactate levels, so users can tell how hard they’ve exercised.

Currently, the researchers can’t get the tattoos to generate that much power, but they say they are working on increasing the amount, so as to power mobile devices and wearables in the future. Although it’s clearly just a prototype at this stage, the UC San Diego researchers appear to have stumbled across something with great potential.

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