I’m warm all the time. It doesn’t matter how hot or cold it is inside or out, I throw off heat like an aging, leaky furnace. A few MIT engineering students apparently know how uncomfortable this can be, so they’ve developed a wrist-worn device that can regulate your body temperature using thermal pulses.
The Wristify, as the prototype has been dubbed, recently won the $10,000 first prize in MIT’s Making And Designing Materials Engineering Competition. It monitors skin temperature and delivers thermal pulses into the wrist to cool or warm the wearer. The device’s inventors claim it can change body temperature by up to 0.4 degrees Celsius per second.
Making folks like me more comfortable isn’t really the goal, though. Conceivably, the device could make it possible to heat or cool individuals, rather than wasting energy running the air conditioner full blast in the summer.
“Buildings right now use an incredible amount of energy just in space heating and cooling. In fact, all together this makes up 16.5% of all U.S. primary energy consumption. We wanted to reduce that number, while maintaining individual thermal comfort,” said Sam Shames, a materials science and engineering senior who co-invented the Wristify technology. “We found the best way to do it was local heating and cooling of parts of the body.”
The prototype (developed after 15 previous versions) can run up to eight hours on a lithium polymer battery. The device includes a custom copper-alloy-based heat sink, with an automated control system that manages the delivery of the thermal pulses. Thermometers measure body temperature and external temperature.