Advances in miniaturized portable electronics and progress on novel enabling technologies, consequently accompanied by power consumption downgraded from the scale of milliwatts (mW) to microwatts (μW), have inevitably facilitate the development of an emerging discipline-wearable human energy conversion systems. Served as a passive human energy harvester which can directly convert heat into electricity in long-term operations without the user’s intervention, wearable thermoelectric generators (WTEG) have sparked considerable research interest for next-generation power supply. In comparison to the longstanding research history of thermoelectrics, their wearables are still in infancy of extensive growth over the last decade. Although, historically, the main challenge behind the conventional thermoelectric generator (TEG) is the improvement of dimensionless figure-of-merit (zT), wearable applications usually impose additional restrictions that can be more pivotal than zT value. Diversified targeted strategies therefore have been proposed to push TEG toward wearable application. Here, we review the evolutionary roadmap of the wearable thermoelectric generators in the past decade, it could be concluded that the trend in WTEG is to move toward stretchable three-dimension (3D)-structure with rational thermal design at the moment. The basic concept targeting WTEG, which highly differs from that of the traditional TEG, is introduced at first. And then, aiming to provide detailed design guidelines for WTEG, we begin with carefully discussing the key issues for TEG toward wearable application. Finally, the specific strategies targeted WTEG that is classified into thermal design regarding extrinsic temperature difference (ΔText), parasitic and TEG thermal resistance, mechanical design with emphasis on optimizing deformability at materials/device level beyond flexibility toward stretchability, as well as architecture design from two-dimension (2D) to 3D feature are comprehensively summarized, respectively. With these understandings, perspectives for the future development of WTEG are outlined. This review emphasizes issues and provides additional insight in advanced strategies for pushing TEG toward wearable application. The key issues clarified and the design roadmap summarized here arise from the goal of providing ideas for the concurrent optimization of the future WTEG, as well as realistically promoting the TEG toward wearable application.


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Pushing thermoelectric generators toward energy harvesting from the human body: Challenges and strategies
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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2022.06.001