Science 2 min read

New Implantable Devices Harness Heartbeat to Self-Charge

Image via Patricio R. Sarzosa, Thayer School of Engineering

Image via Patricio R. Sarzosa, Thayer School of Engineering

Your heart’s motion generates so much energy that we can use it to recharge implants that keep us alive. According to a publication in the National Institutes of Health, that’s precisely what a group of Dartmouth college engineers did.

Credit: Patricio R. Sarzosa, Thayer School of Engineering

Engineers at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth teamed up with clinicians at the University of Texas to develop a dime-sized machine that converts the heart’s kinetic energy into electricity.

As a result, health providers and medical tech companies can conveniently power a wide range of implantable devices into patients.

Millions of people across the world rely on pacemakers. According to Statista, 1.14 million units of pacemakers were installed in 2016, and this number is expected to reach 1.43 million units by 2023.

Since batteries power these implantable devices, they need to be substituted every 5 to 10 years. That means a patient must undergo a replacement surgery that’s not just costly, but also exposes patients to complications and infections.

With this new invention, these surgeries could be a thing of the past.

“Weʼre trying to solve the ultimate problem for any implantable biomedical device,” says Dartmouth engineering professor John X.J. Zhang, a lead researcher on the study.

Read More: New AI-Powered Implant Can Turn Thoughts Into Speech

How the Device Works

The researchers modified pacemakers to tap into the kinetic energy of the lead wire that’s attached to the heart. As such, it can convert it into electricity to keep the battery charged.

The modification involves adding PVDF, a type of thin polymer piezoelectric film which converts the slightest mechanical motion into electricity.

Dartmouth research associate and first author on the paper, Lin Dong wrote;

“We knew it had to be biocompatible, lightweight, flexible, and low profile, so it not only fits into the current pacemaker structure but is also scalable for future multi-functionality ”

With this in mind, the engineers developed the device so that it could serve as a potential sensor for collecting data and monitoring patients in real time.

According to Zhang, the researchers completed a successful first round of animal studies and will publish the result soon.

The engineer also stated that a number of major medical technology companies expressed interest in the project.

Read More: New Brain Implant Can Translate Thoughts Into Text

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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