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This New Sleep-Tracking Smart Pillow Can Power Itself Through Your Head Movements

Back view of woman sleeping comfortable in bed

Scientists in China have come up with a smart pillow that is developed to walk the line between the already existing two sleep-tracking solutions. It monitors the quality of rest through head movements, which work to power the system at the same time.

The self-powering smart pillow derives inspiration from earlier work by scientists in sleep-monitoring systems that track movement and harvest energy during the night through triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs). These systems, which convert friction and mechanical energy into electricity, are at the cutting edge of wearables research due to their ability to harness the energy of the moving body.

In the field of sleep monitoring, these generators have found their way into eye masks and bed sheets. The creators of the new smart pillow, however, were seeking a less restrictive solution, one that wouldn’t come at the cost of the comfort of the user. The pillow has sets of flexible, porous polymer triboelectric layers that generate an electrical current with the movement of the head. These were placed over an ordinary pillow and generated a voltage in response to the amount of pressure applied.

Testing demonstrated that the pillow could track the pressure distribution of a fake human head as it shifted positions, and it was sensitive enough to track a finger’s movement as it traced out letters. While designed to track sleep quality, the scientist imagines the self-powered pillow could find other uses including monitoring patients with neck conditions or acting as an early warning system for people prone to falling out of bed.

The research was published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.