Check it out, my clothes are electric. No, seriously

Someday you may be able to use your crotch or armpits to recharge that cellphone. Heck, maybe there won’t even be a battery, just a capacitor which gets its juice from Power Felt, a fabric that converts body heat to electricity.

Now we mention the nether-regions because it’s funny, but also because it makes the most sense. Researchers have developed a fabric containing carbon nanotubes used in a way that generates electricity based on a temperature differential. We figure the areas on the body that have high heat loss would be the most efficient locations for the fabric since it is currently extremely expensive to produce (the hope is that mass-production would reduce cost by orders of magnitude). So we think battery-charging briefs are a definite possibility.

What we see here is a nano-scale Peltier electricity generator. It’s the same concept as this candle-based generator, except the increased efficiency of the Power Felt lets your wasted body heat take the place of the flame.

There’s a white paper on the topic but you can’t get at it without surrendering some [George Washingtons].

[via Reddit and Megadgets]

Tapping Tree Power

[bugloaf] tipped us off about this flower power hack. University of Washington researchers, [Babak], [Brian], and [Carlton] have developed very low power circuits to run directly off of trees. This builds upon the work of MIT researchers and Voltree Power. A voltage of up to around 200mV is generated between an electrode in a tree and an electrode in the ground. Identical metals can be used as electrodes as the process is not like that of a lemon or potato battery. The significant development here is the use of a boost converter and exceptionally low power circuits. What kind of applications can you come up with for this source of power? Maybe you could try to combine this power with the power from donuts and hair.

Science fiction, help or hindrance?

[Annalee Newitz] from io9 has written a piece about how science fiction can impact the public’s perception of scientific research. She’s covered stories ranging from Frankenstein, for showing the negatives of humans “playing god”, to The Diamond Age, for showing an inspiring use of nanotechnology.

We wonder what direct impact science fiction has had on research. Depictions of a 3D metaverse have always been compelling, but is pouring effort into half measures like Second Life a waste of time compared to serious computer interaction research?

We discussed this for a little while and concluded that whether inspiring or hindering, the very act of critically thinking about technology was beneficial. What books have inspired you in the past? Was it because they showed a better world or were they a stern warning?

Nanobot nanosoccer

Medgadget recently published a post about a soccer competition for nanobots at RoboCup. The nanobots compete on a field that measures 1500 by 2500 micrometers with goals on the long sides jutting 500 micrometers out. Like normal soccer athletes, the nanobot teams attempt to push the ball – in this case, a silicon dioxide disc with a 50 micrometer diameter – into the goal. The nanobot competitors are monitored by an optical microscope and are remotely controlled by magnetic signals sent across the arena.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and RoboCup have already held two nanobot competitions in the last year. Nanobots made by different teams from various universities compete to test various abilities that will be critical for their practical applications in medicine, manufacturing, and other industries.

Though it is referred to as nanosoccer, the competition is actually a triathlon. The bots must sprint to the goal with the ball in one event, then maneuver the ball around stationary “defenders” and into the goal in the next event, and finally score as many goals as possible within 3 minutes. NIST and RoboCup hope to show the practical potential of nanobots with this competition and have a little fun in the process.

[via Medgadget]