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Thermoelectric Bracelet May Change Our Dependence on HVAC

Every year, U.S. homeowners spend $11 billion heating and cooling their homes – that’s the price of 42,000 Ferraris; the operating budget of Toronto; the total worth of Universal theme parks.

With that in mind, what if we could reduce the amount of money we spend on heating and air conditioning? The students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with an idea that could do just that: a thermoelectric bracelet.

MADMEC

Every year, MIT hosts a Making and Designing Materials Engineering Competition (MADMEC) for students to get involved in. The competition urges them to apply what they’ve learned and build a functional prototype that solves common problems. This year, the theme focused on solving “energy storage, building efficiency, transportation and many other critical needs.” Each group (made up of two to five people) received $1,000 to build their model and this year, the “Wristify” bracelet, built by Sam Shames, Mike Gibson, David Cohen-Tanugi, and Matt Smith won.

How It Works

Wristify features a square copper-alloy-based heat exchanger that you wear around your wrist. The exchanger takes notes on the air temperature and your skin temperature; based on its evaluation, it sends pulses of hot or cold waveforms through your skin to warm you up or cool you down. Because your skin reacts to direct changes more than the temperature of a room, Wristify makes it easier to control each individual’s body temperature.

As Shames says, “Why heat or cool an entire house or building when you could heat or cool a person directly instead?”

The bracelet can change temperatures at 0.4 degrees per second and operates on a lithium polymer battery, which provides up to eight hours of energy. If Wristify becomes a mass-produced consumer item, it could change the way we depend on HVAC and reduce the amount of energy we consume.