Regulating temperature is one of the largest forms of energy consumption. During the winter energy is used to power heaters that warm up an entire building, and during the summer electricity can be used to power air conditioning units. As energy prices rise finding ways of reducing energy consumption is becoming more important for many.
One team of engineering students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have designed a radical new way to create comfortable temperatures, whilst using far less energy; heat the individual person, not the building.
They created thermoelectric bracelet, known as Wristify, which works on the principal that by applying sources of cold or heat to just one part of the body, the entire body can experience a change in temperature.
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By monitoring the ambient air temperature and the skin temperature, Wristify can send pulses of hot or cold waves to the wrist which help maintain the body at a comfortable temperature.
The device is powered by a lithium polymer battery which runs for eight hours before needing to be charged again.
Temperature sensors feed information to an automated control system that then sends out thermal pulses of differing intensity and duration through a copper-alloy based heat sink.
Sam Shames, one of the students that worked on the Wristify team, said that “buildings right now use an incredible amount of energy just in space heating and cooling. In fact, all together this makes up 16.5 percent of all US primary energy consumption. We wanted to reduce that number, while maintaining individual thermal comfort. We found the best way to do it was local heating and cooling of parts of the body.”
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The Wristify thermoelectric bracelet being demonstrated at MADMEC.
The Wristify device was developed for the MADMEC competition, a materials science design competition which MIT holds every year and is sponsored by the likes of BP, Dow Chemical, and Saint Gobain.
The theme of the competition this year was ‘materials science solutions for sustainability.’ Wristify won first prize, which provides the funds for the team (Sam Shames, Mike Gibson, David Cohen-Tanugi, and Matt Smith) to continue developing their product in order to produce a working prototype more suitable for commercialisation.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com