Sweat: Power Source of the Future?

'Biobatteries' on temporary tattoos can draw power from lactic acid
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2014 8:54 AM CDT
Sweat: Power Source of the Future?
Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, wipes sweat from her brow during a practice session at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Montreal, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014.   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)

Someday, sweating might not just cool you down—it could also power your phone. So-called biobatteries, which can take the form of a temporary tattoo, can already generate a small amount of electricity, the Washington Post reports. "We are working on enhancing (the product) so it can power small electronic devices," a researcher tells the BBC. The tattoos work using lactic acid that's found in our sweat. But creating the devices wasn't researchers' original goal.

Researchers were creating a new way to keep track of lactic acid, high levels of which can indicate a medical problem. They placed a lactate sensor on temporary tattoo paper, making the tracking process easier. "I've worn it myself—you don't even feel it. It really is like a tattoo," says researcher Wenzhao Jia. Then her team added an enzyme to the tattoo in order to extract electrons from the lactate, thus turning the device into a battery. (In other sweat-related technology, Kodak has been making anti-stink clothing.)

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