Harvesting electricity from small temperature differences could enable a new generation of electronic devices that don’t need batteries

It can be inconvenient to replace batteries in devices that need to work over long periods of time. Doctors might have to get beneath a patient’s skin to replace batteries for implanted biomedical monitoring or treatment systems. Batteries used in devices that monitor machinery, infrastructure or industrial installations may be crammed into hard-to-reach nooks or distributed over wide areas that are often difficult to access.

But new technology being developed by MIT researchers could make such replacements unnecessary.

Soon, such devices could be powered just by differences in temperature between the body (or another warm object) and the surrounding air, eliminating or reducing the need for a battery. They would use new energy-scavenging systems being developed by Anantha Chandrakasan, MIT’s Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering and director of the MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories, and Yogesh Ramadass SM ’06, PhD ’09.

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