Scientists have developed a device which harnesses the kinetic energy of the heart by converting it to electricity to power a broad range of implantable devices. The tiny dime-sized device uses heart’s powerful motion to continually recharge life saving devices.
Millions of patients with difficult conditions rely on defibrillators, pacemakers and other life saving devices. These devices are powered by batteries which on exhaustion have to be replaced after 5 to 10 years. The device replacements often require costly surgeries which exposes the patient to possibility of infections and other complications. The new technology aims to do away with such costly surgeries by installing devices which can be continually charged through the hearts implicit kinetic energy.
The study was published in Advanced Materials Technologies journal by New Hampshire based Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College which received funding from US National Institutes of Health. The researchers said that the device is designed to be minimally invasive and uses thin film energy conversion materials for enabling seamless self-charging batteries.
A lead researcher of the study and Professor of engineering at Dartmouth College, John X.J. Zhang said that they are trying to solve the ultimate problem of creating an effective energy source so that the device will function throughout the lifespan of the patient without the necessity of a replacement surgery. Ling Dong, a research associate at Dartmouth said that the device does not interfere with body’s regular functions. Dr. Dong who is also the first author of the study added that the device has to be low profile, flexible, lightweight and biocompatible so that it fits with the standard pacemaker structure and has the scale for future multi-functionality.
The material which enables such energy conversion functionality is PVDF, which is a thin piezoelectric polymer film. When it is designed with porous structures such as flexible cantilever or small buckle beam arrays, it can convert the kinetic energy from the mechanical motion of the heart to electricity. The same modules can be used as sensors for real-time patient monitoring. Professor Zhang said that they have successfully completed the first round of testing on animals with good results which will be published soon. He added that if all goes well the self-charging pacemaker is just five years away from market rollout as already major health tech firms have expressed interest in the device.