Powering IoT monitoring devices – from people to machines
The technology can be used for biomonitoring people, animals and for sensing and machine health monitoring from unreachable curved surface.
Purdue University

Powering IoT monitoring devices – from people to machines

Body heat through flexible fabric could power Internet of Things (IoT) devices for health monitoring for people, pets, and machinery.


Researchers at Purdue University have created a technology to address the thickness issue for wearable power generation. They developed a woven, thermoelectric flexible fabric that is potentially thinner than 1mm.

“This wearable power generator is well-suited for body or other heat recovery while also offering great mechanical flexibility and comfort,” says Kazuaki Yazawa, a research associate professor at Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park. “Furthermore, this film-based product is easier to manufacture compared to current manufacturing of thermoelectric modules.”

The flexible thermoelectric generator technology uses a polymer, or a variety of yarns woven into a polymer film or fabric sheet, with a printable pattern of thermoelectric materials. The generator takes heat from any curved surface it meets and converts it into a small amount of electricity.

Punched holes incorporated with the printed pattern allow an electric insulated thread to pass between the two sides to properly connect the hot and cold side surfaces. The 3D structure then becomes similar to conventional rigid or solid thermoelectric power generator modules.

“There are several potential areas of application for this technology for both humans and animals,” Yazawa says. “It can be used for biomonitoring humans or animals, along with applications for industrial machining where the unreachable curved surface can be used for sensing and machine health monitoring.”

The innovators are working with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the technology. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact Dipak Narula from OTC at dnarula@prf.org and mention track code 2019-YAZA-68590.