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Thermoelectric wristband could reduce your air con/heating bills

by Mark Tyson on 1 November 2013, 15:45

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qab4pj

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A new wrist worn device called the Wristify recently won the 7th annual MADMEC competition held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The device uses a miniature Peltier cooler which can be used to make you feel comfortable on a hot or a cold day using a thermoelectric effect.

You were probably told as a child, overheated from playing out in mid-summer, to put your wrists under a cold tap to help you quickly feel cool and comfortable. This effect works at the other extreme, say you have been out making a snowman in mid-winter, you can warm up quickly using hot/warm water on your wrists. Sam Shames, the MIT senior who helped invent the technology was in a room with his mother feeling uncomfortably warm, however his mother was cold - so he thought about this problem of who controls the thermostat. A physiology journal provided background information about how people experience temperature, from which he formulated the Wristify concept.

It’s a sensory illusion

The Wristify doesn’t just apply a constant heating or cooling source to the wrist. For example, to give a cooling feeling to the wearer the Wristify uses ‘pulse cooling’; cooling the wrist contact surface by 0.4 degrees Celsius once a second for 5 seconds then idling for the next 10 seconds. Due to our physiology this gives the wearer an overall body feeling of being a few degrees cooler.

Global warming etc

So the above explains the technology and how it works but to Sam Shames the idea is a lot bigger than making a few people feel a bit more comfortable in non-optimal ambient environments. He sees the Wristify partly as a solution to the huge amount of energy used in the USA in providing heating and air conditioning. Such activities account for nearly 17 per cent of the US total energy consumption. The Wristify can run for eight hours on a small lithium battery.

In the US 87 per cent of homes have air conditioning in contrast to Brazil (11 per cent) and India (2 per cent). Wristify could help cut the use of AC in the USA and people in those countries without the infrastructure to support AC in every house could live a lot more comfortably. Shames sums up by saying “Why heat or cool a building when you could heat or cool a person?”

Use it as the base for a smartwatch?

We are told that the Wristify prototype is made, in its present form, with about $50 worth of off-the-shelf parts. Shames says a device with the same effect could be made with about half the skin surface area used by the current version. I think this technology could be much more widely adopted if Apple, Samsung, Google or Microsoft smartwatches incorporated this copper Peltier base. An app could control the heating or cooling effect and act as a personal thermostat using an on-screen dial. That would be a really cool, or hot, smartwatch.



HEXUS Forums :: 13 Comments

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This sounds very interesting.
I've always thought that peltiers were really electric inefficient though.
Unless that only really applies to cooling computers and such
is anyone else just seeing wrist strap with a heatsink on it wired up to a crapple mac?
What I want is some way to channel the waste heat from my 7970 when I'm playing BF4 to keep my feet warm! :D

Though Peltier cooling had been well and truly discredited because it's monumentally inefficient? Is this still the case or has there been some breakthrough? I certainly remember a couple of attempts to use it for CPU cooling that reviewers savaged as being less efficient than a plain old fan cooler.
crossy
What I want is some way to channel the waste heat from my 7970 when I'm playing BF4 to keep my feet warm! :D


Tape some venting duct to the back of your PC. Then you've got a positional heater whenever your computer is turned on :D

Would work even better if you had an open cooled graphics card and a computer with one large exhaust fan, with the rest of the case insulated: all the heat from all your components could be funneled down the duct, giving you your own personal couple-of-hundred watt heater :D

Of course, since most fan heaters are several kW and even hairdryers kick out well over 1KW, you might not find it as warming as you'd hope... ;)
I came up with a similar device back in 2007, I really should have patented the idea.. oh well