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Engineers Have Just Invented a Type of Hydrogel Material that Can Turn Overheating Gadgets' Heat Into Electricity

By Urian , Apr 22, 2020 11:27 PM EDT

Engineers have recently created a certain cooling hydrogel material that is able to convert the excess heat from different electronic devices into electricity! This thin hydrogel film, which is actually made up of a certain type of polymer and water, can extract the heat away from different batteries of smartphones, computers, and tablets, so they do not end up overheating.

Researchers were able to test the film on a particular mobile phone battery and they were able to find out that the temperature then dropped a huge 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the device's waste heat was also converted into electricity itself that could, later on, be used in order to power up the device.

The findings of the researchers

According to the Wuhan University in China's very own Dr. Xuejiao Hu, the reduction in working temperatures actually result in the safe operation of the battery itself, and the harvested electricity could be sufficient enough for monitoring the battery or even controlling the cooling system.

The use of these electronic devices for way too long could result in overheating, which could potentially slow them down as well as damage their components or even resulting in the devices exploding or catching fire.

The most high-profile case so far was the case of Samsung's own Galaxy Note 7 back in 2016, which then had to be recalled due to a certain defect that actually caused the battery to generate excessive heat and even burst into flames. Researchers have also said that their new device, which has not yet been brought to the market, is going to be the first to be able to both cool devices as well as convert their waste heat into electricity.

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The use of heat and new electricity

The heat that is generated by the batteries, lights, and processors could possibly reduce the efficiency, reliability, and even the lifespan of the devices. The use of hydrogel could really save frequent smartphone users from having to repetitively buy new devices while being even more environmentally friendly.

This thermogalvanic hydrogel, which is then strapped to the battery located inside the device, changes its whole structure in response to the temperature. It already consists of a certain polyacrylamide framework (known as an organic polymer used as a sort of suspending agent, lubricant, and even as an oil recovery agent) which is then infused with water and ions.

Once this hydrogen patch is then heated, two of its ions (ferricyanide and ferrocyanide), then proceed to transfer electrodes, which result in generating electricity. Meanwhile, some water found inside the hydrogel then evaporates, which results in a cooling effect on the patch.

After its use, this hydrogel then regenerates by itself through absorbing water found in the surrounding air. The water found in the hydrogel can then self-adaptively escape from the hydrogel itself and also re-enter through a certain evaporation and absorption cycle known as the "thermodynamic" cycle.

The Nano Letters journal by the American Chemistry Society is where the findings were published.

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