Pacemakers, defibrillators and other cardiac implants are life saving devices, but the batteries inside of them remain their Achilles’ heel. Every five to ten years they have to be replaced in another invasive surgery that patients abhor and that put a high cost on the healthcare system. Harvesting energy from inside the body to power these devices, particularly from the heart’s own movements, has been tried in the past with limited success. Simply not enough current has been produced to power a conventional pacemaker, but researchers at two Chinese universities may have come up with an electricity generator, that attaches to the bottom of the heart, which can generate enough juice and to potentially power a pacemaker indefinitely.
The researchers from the Second Military Medical University and Jiao Tong University, both in Shanghai, worked out a way to significantly boost the potential current produced by a combination of piezoelectric components. They made were able to actually manufacture a prototype and test it in a live pig, demonstrating that the animal’s heart produced enough energy to continuously energize a commercial pacemaker.
The generator, which is attached to the pericardial sac, features piezoelectric composites that are modified so that they can be easily deformed to extreme shapes. The piezoelectrics are attached to a flexible capsule, compressing which generates electricity within the piezoelectric materials. This allowed the researchers to produce 15 μA of continuous current when the prototype was implanted onto a living adult pig.
Study in ACS Nano: Direct Powering a Real Cardiac Pacemaker by Natural Energy of a Heartbeat…
(hat tip: The Economist)