Most people’s first instinct when they feel too warm or too cool in their home is to head for the thermostat on their central heating or air conditioning system. Inventors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), however, have produced a new device which could help people maintain a comfortable body temperature without having to leave their seat.
The idea of a personal cooling device would probably sound like science fiction to most people. The MIT team, though, have managed to produce a wristband device which can cool or warm someone according to their own personal preference. The new device also impressed judges in the MITs Making and Designing Materials Engineering Competition (MADMEC), where the device was considered worth a $10,000 prize. Known as Wristify, the appliance could soon be heading onto the mass market.
Before that point, though, there is still much work to be done. The four MIT alumni and students who designed the device were largely motivated by what they saw as the mounting financial and social costs of energy consumption in the United States. A great deal of the energy used today, perhaps as much as 16.5 percent of the USA’s total energy usage, is devoted to keeping buildings at comfortable temperatures.
Cutting that expenditure, and the amount of energy used, would therefore have significant environmental as well as financial benefits. The working prototype of Wristify is a thermoelectric bracelet. This monitors the temperature of the person wearing it, and then sends bespoke pulses of cool or warm waveforms onto their wrist. The way in which the skin perceives very slight changes in temperature means that the person wearing the device will feel warmer or cooler, depending on the conditions around them.
The MIT team believe that if the device can help properties reduce their overall temperatures by as little as one degree Celsius, then the savings could be significant. A reduction of even that level could save as much as 100 kilowatt-hours per month. Any business, or home, would therefore save impressive amounts of cash.
Now the MIT competition prize winners are looking for ways that they can introduce the product to a mass market. Wristify could well be the future of individual temperature management. Once some tweaks and refinements have been made to the technology, many people could find wearing a new wristwatch-type device becomes a normal part of going to work at the office.