The Planet

Tech-Charged Blankets Turn Bovines Into Battery Packs

by Caroline Pham

April 8, 2015
Cowolt: charged couture. Screengrab via Cowolt video.

Liva Kallite and Netta Korhonen may have just taken the idea of “functional fashion” and supercharged it with a boost of technological know-how to help out the approximately 1.3 billion people around the world who live without electricity. Thing is, their wearable isn’t designed for humans, but rather for our four-legged bovine friends. 

Introducing the Cowolt, a two-piece “energy harvesting blanket” outfitted with thermoelectric modules that essentially harness an animal’s body heat, turning it into charge for batteries. According to CityLab: “The difference between the creatures’ internal temperature of about 102 degrees and cooler, ambient air would then create electricity via the Seebeck effect. They estimate a vest could charge a 12-volt battery in 26 hours on the power of one robo-cow.”

Creators Kallite and Korhonen, both students at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design, and Architecture in Helsinki, point out the deficiencies in alternate means of electricity like kerosene (inefficient, expensive, health risks), solar energy (high maintenance and high up-front costs), diesel power generators (too large scale for personal use), and micro hydro power (negative effects on natural surroundings). Essentially, these aren’t efficient options for those without electricity, and harnessing what these people might have on-hand, like farm animals, is a more realistic mode.  

Who knows whether it will actually catch on, but the hope is that Cowolt would provide enough charge to power smaller devices such as lamps, telephones, and radios, and thus provide those without stable sources of electricity with opportunities to be a little more self-sustaining in their everyday lives. 

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Tech-Charged Blankets Turn Bovines Into Battery Packs