Flexible wearable device uses magnets to generate electricity

Flexible wearable device uses magnets to generate electricity
A new flexible wearable piezoelectric device (a device that produces electricity from movement) is being developed at UCLA that could succeed where others have previously failed.

image: Jun Chen/UCLA


Previous attempts at magnetoelastic generators saw the units constructed from rigid metal alloys, which were too stiff to be worn on the body.

A team at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) has now created one that is flexible enough to be worn on frequently moving body parts such as wrists and arms.

It is made from a platinum-catalysed silicone polymer matrix, suspended inside of which are nanoscale neodymium-iron-boron magnets.

When attached to an user's elbow via a silicone band, the device generated electrical currents of 4.27 milliamperes per square centimeter. As the wearer's elbow moved tiny magnets are repeatedly pulled apart and pushed back together.

The test indicated that the device was sensitive enough that it could even convert human pulse waves into electrical signals – which sees one possible future use as a self-powered heart rate monitor.

The research was recently published in the journal Nature Materials.