Thermal Material to Act as Battery and Power Your Devices

by Donny on April 30, 2013

thermoelectricOk so I’m not exactly coming out of the closet when I admit that I like Science Fiction. I grew up reading the likes of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, C.S. Lewis and innumerable others.

Unfortunately I’m probably not nearly nerd enough to fully grasp all the concepts they introduce but I can usually grasp them well enough to enjoy the books.

What can I say; I’m a humanities guy, not math and science.  Science fiction has suggested a lot of different mythical power sources over the years; dilithium crystals, crystallic fusion, star light sails, spice excreted from giant worms that swim through desert sands… Books and movies have concocted quite a number of different ideas each more far- fetched than the last.

The fact is even the “near future” forms of alternative energy seem a long way off. Solar has been remarkably unsuccessful as a reliable form; the same is true of wind power. If I seem somewhat dismissive of alternative forms of energy I must plead guilty.

Ultimately, it seems to me, that the only really reliable forms of energy we’re likely to see within our lifetimes are already here, fossil fuels and nuclear power.

But a Japanese tech company is attempting to tap a new and unused source, one that has only been hit upon in the movies, human power.

Fujifilm is close to producing a “thermoelectric conversion material” that can be worn on one’s person. As I understand it, small temperature changes are turned into energy, which in turn can be either stored in some kind of battery device, or used to power cell phones, tablets or other small devices.

If you’re getting a sort of Borg / Matrix vibe here you’re not alone. And since energy can be neither created nor destroyed, it’s not too hard to imagine some new kind of energetic socialism in which the more fit amongst us are forced to carry a greater load of the energy production due to their physical condition.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs…” right? Of course, at this point I’d not be too concerned with the emergence of a new form cyber- energy slavery.

No one is actually envisioning strapping thermoelectric material to a permanent energy proletariat as a means of providing power to the rest of society. At most we’re talking about a new means of powering our personal electronics.  And all societal speculation aside, this is not a half bad idea.

I don’t know that it would really bring down the price of energy or anything, but it could be convenient in the absence of an outlet. Just so long as I don’t have to get on a treadmill to power my television or run in a wheel to power my air conditioning, both of which seem counterproductive to me.

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