So this is an interesting concept. What if you didn’t have to look for a power outlet every time your phone was about to die? What if you could just hold onto your phone, and it would get charged through the warmth of your body? Perhaps this technology isn’t available for your phone, yet, but Matrix Industries is looking into this technology to be able to charge your smartwatch. While it isn’t an AppleWatch, I don’t think we should be so quick to discredit the watch itself. Especially because this is the kind of technology that we could use for different things in the future. Known as the PowerWatch, the technology is kind of interesting.
This also kind of sounds a bit like science fiction, I know. But it’s not that far-fetched, is it? The science of converting heat into usable electricity using temperature differences has been around for almost 200 years. But the downside is that it requires extreme temperatures to actually work. You may be familiar with BioLite’s CampStove, which allows you to charge your smartphone while you’re stranded in the middle of the woods. But, in order for this to work, you have to maintain an extremely hot fire. And it doesn’t really produce that much power.
So how does the PowerWatch work? Well, it uses nothing but your body heat by opting for the components that use less power and design in a way that maximizes thermodynamics. Have you ever had lower Apple Watch power? And you get a notification that says it will preserve power by using only the basic functions? It’s kind of like that, but instead, your body heat would be charging those functions.
Here’s where the technology lacks a bit. Or maybe it’s the PowerWatch. But like I said – this is great news in terms of the technology. It’s just not there yet. The key to being able to use the thermoelectric effect to power a gadget is by targeting the components that use less power. The PowerWatch has a basic monochrome Sharp LCD memory display. It doesn’t have a backlight. It doesn’t have contrast and it’s honestly very difficult to see in the dark. The display has a slow refresh rate as well, which means that you don’t actually get to see the numbers running when using it as a stopwatch—just a static message that says it’s “Running.”
There’s no touchscreen either. Which means you’ll have to navigate the PowerWatch’s various modes using a pair of buttons on the right side, and a crown that serves as a rotating dial. It is a smartwatch, but like I said earlier, it’s not like your Apple Watch. It does allow you to track your movements, track your quality of sleep and it can be synced over Bluetooth. Because of some of the lack of features with it, a better description might be fitness tracker. And it’s going to be really good at this because it is constantly figuring out your skin temperature.
The thermoelectric effect relies on a temperature difference between two conductors. Heat will naturally flow from a warm conductor towards a cold one, and in the process that causes electrons to flow which generates electricity. That’s a very basic breakdown of the science behind the PowerWatch, but thanks to an improved ‘boost converter chip’, the tiny amount of electricity converted from your body heat can be boosted so that there’s enough voltage to power circuits and chips.
I think the potential is there, in terms of technology, and I hope Matrix Industries is able to move this forward to build something even greater. Could this lead to the ability to charge your smartphone just by holding it? If yes, this could change the way we live our lives. After all, your life likely revolves around when you can charge your smartphone or smartwatch. Which could mean that you will no longer need to have a dozen chargers with you at all time. Just in case.