Thermal Conductivity Applications in Consumer Wearables and Biomedical Technologies

From smart watches to medical sensors and devices, wearable and smart technologies are seeing increasing application in all aspects of society. Emergency services personnel wear video and audio devices for personal and public safety, athletes wear smart monitors to determine vO2 max and obtain other physical metrics, and patients can take home and wear medical sensors that a decade ago would have necessitated stressful and costly hospitalization.

In all aspects of wearable technologies, thermal management is key to user comfort and to device performance. Poor thermal management can shorten battery life – and in the case of Li-ion batteries, pose a safety hazard. Finally, poor thermal management can create uncomfortable hot spots for the wearer. Thermal conductivity is the key thermal attribute in the thermal management of these devices – specifically, thermal conductivity of thin metal sheets and plastic films is of especially high priority in characterizing and designing these items.

Additionally, the property a comfortable touch-feel is important for all consumer goods and is increasingly a priority in medical devices, such as prosthetics and health sensors. Thermal effusivity is the thermal property which correlates to the sense properties of warm-touch or cool-feel – depending on the application, a warm touch may be more desirable (consider a stethoscope applied on your skin – a cold stethoscope can be very uncomfortable, but a warm-feeling one makes the exam more pleasant), or a cool feel may be more comfortable (most athletic wear prioritizes a cool feel).

Join us for a dive into measuring the thermal properties of materials used in wearable electronic devices.

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