New Chin Strap May Harvest the Power of Chewing to Provide Energy to Electronic Devices

First Posted: Sep 19, 2014 08:54 AM EDT

Scientists continue to search for ways to collect power for sustainable energy. Now, they've created a chin strap that can actually harvest energy from the jaw movements associated with chewing, which may just be able to power small devices in the future.

Jaw movements have actually been proven to be one of the most promising candidates for generating electricity from human body movements. In fact, scientists estimate that an average of about 7 mW of power could be generated from chewing during meals alone. That's why scientists decided to focus on these movements in particular to create a device to harvest this energy.

In this case, the scientists created a chin strap made from piezoelectric fiber composites (PFC). PFC is a time of smart material that consists of integrated electrodes and an adhesive polymer matrix. This material has the ability to produce an electric charge when it's stretched and experiences mechanical stress. The new chin strap is made from a single layer of PFC and attached to a pair of ear muffs using a pair of elastic side straps. The chin strap is fitted snugly to the user so that when the user's jaw moves is causes the strap to stretch.

While the researchers did manage to generate some power with the new device, it wasn't nearly enough to power electronic devices. Yet the potential is still there and with improvement, it's possible that this could be a viable way to power small devices.

"Given the average power available from chewing is around 7 mW, we still have a long way to go before we perfect the performance of the device," said Aidin Delnavaz, co-author of the new study, in a news release. "The power level we achieved is hardly sufficient for powering electrical devices at the moment; however, we can multiply the power output by adding more PFC layers to the chin strap. For example, 20 PFC layers, with a total thickness of 6 mm, would be able to power a 200 µW intelligent hearing protector."

While more research needs to be conducted, the chin strap could be used in the future. Currently, the scientists are looking to increase the number of piezoelectric elements in the chin strap in order to supply the power that small electronic devices demand.

The findings are published in the journal Smart Materials and Structures.

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