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National Winner

Power Mutualism

A wearable self-driving electricity-generating biomaterial based on cyanobacteria biophotovoltaics for providing green power for small electronics in the era of IOT and wearable sensor networks.

  • Power Mutualism Wearable Electricity-generating Biomaterial Based on Cyanobacteria Biophotovoltaics

  • The Story of Power Mutualism: Design Concept, Experiment and Design Process, Prototype Presentation

    The Story of Power Mutualism: Design Concept, Experiment and Design Process, Prototype Presentation

  • Material Sample of Power Mutualism and some Experimental Processes in the Lab

  • Prototype Testing in the Gym: This “Living” Clothing Generates Electricity When You Sweat

  • Electricity-generating Material Structure and Principle Diagram, Parametric Computational Framework

  • Technology Application Scenarios

What it does

It is a wearable self-driving green bio-cell which extracts energy from human sweat and generates electricity from cyanobacteria to power wearables and IOT electronics, helping get rid of restrictions like frequent charging and alleviate the greenhouse effect.

Your inspiration

From phone booths to mobile phones, electronics are always becoming lighter, more mobile and off-grid. The IOT and wearable sensor networks will be the future. However, current ways of power supply cause many restrictions: 1 frequent charging limits mobility, 2 batteries account for most of the weight, and 3 the most pressing issue is the ways to get power have caused great harm to nature. "Algae Blooms" that have erupted worldwide inspired me. I found that cyanobacteria release electrons during photosynthesis, like a cell-level power plant. Can electricity be designed to be greener, lighter, and more mobile by using the "natural waste"?

How it works

Using the life mechanism of cyanobacteria’s releasing electrons during photosynthesis, I designed and implemented a wearable power generation technology. 1 Based on the structure of biophotovoltaics, Power Mutualism has an anode generates electricity, a cathode catalyzes redox reactions, and a salt bridge for ions exchange. Every 12cm2 (equivalent to the area of an Oreo biscuit) of the material generates 0.3-0.4V of electricity. 2 The moisture management fabric naturally induces water molecules to flow continuously and fastly outward from the skin surface to promote the chemical reaction of the battery. 3 Human sweat acts as a self-driving force to trigger ions exchange, forming a complete power generation structure to power wearables. 4 Human sweat also functions as a supply of growth medium (H2O, NaCl, etc.) to cyanobacteria. 5 Power Mutualism can convert CO2 into O2 by photosynthesis of microalgae, helping to alleviate the greenhouse effect.

Design process

I started interdisciplinary study and research under the help of Materials Experience Lab, Delft University of Technology and College of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tongji University. On the basis of many scientific research, I built the structure that can capture the electrons produced by cyanobacteria with multi-walled carbon nanotube ink and other raw materials. The prototype of Power Mutualism material has gone through three iterations. 1 CHAMBER is relatively large in volume and has a complete and complex biophotovoltaic structure. 2 For better scalability, I simplified it to SANDWICH type: light and only 1-2 mm thick. 3 WEARABLE type was developed after. By fabric performance tests of 10+ materials, moisture management fabrics were selected as a part of the salt bridge of the cell. After multiple prototype tests in the lab and gym, the design was elementarily realized. To improve system efficiency, the pattern of wearable cells is controlled by generative algorithms based on human sweat map and Voronoi diagram to reduce the ineffective energy consumption of the self-driving cell. Finally, the current version of functional garment, which uses LED on the arm to display the operating status, was made through 3D modeling, screen printing, and digital cutting, etc.

How it is different

Compared with low-entropy energy with high power, strong orderliness, and poor mobility, Power Mutualism is a high-entropy energy with low power, large quantity and strong mobility, which meets the energy demand of the IOT and wearable sensor networks in the near future. [VS dry or storage batteries:] Power Mutualism is self-driving like a green power plant, more flexible, breathable and wearable as a fabric, and more sustainable. [VS other bio-cells:] Power Mutualism effectively utilizes the "useless" human bodily fluids to facilitate collaboration between humans and microorganisms. [VS solar cells:] Power Mutualism can generate electricity through respiration of cyanobacteria when there is no sunlight. [VS other clean energy:] Power Mutualism promotes "negative" emissions instead of zero emissions by absorbing CO2, using abundant but unused natural resources - cyanobacteria.

Future plans

The invention patent of this technology is under review. Goal 1: Do more performance experiments on the material and more research into mass manufacturing. Goal 2: Explore approaches for applying this technology to various specific scenarios, such as powering wearable health monitoring devices in daily lives, and emergency power supply in wilderness exploration. Goal 3: Gain support funding and look for cooperation in research, technology, production, etc.


June 2021- Tongji University Excellent Graduation Design (Thesis)

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