The race to find alternative sources of energy has taken an intracorporeal turn, as researchers far and wide attempt to find a way to power pacemakers without the use of batteries. Back in November, medtechinsider reported on a material that can generate power by absorbing light from outside the body, thereby eliminating the need for batteries in pacemakers. Now, two aerospace engineers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, USA, have developed a prototype device that could power a pacemaker by channeling vibrations in the chest cavity that are caused mainly by heartbeats. The technology is described in the American Institute of Physics’ Applied Physics Letters.
Though pacemakers require minute amounts of energy, their batteries have to be replaced periodically, which means multiple surgeries for patients, notes a press release issued by the university. Finding an alternative source of energy benefits patients and healthcare budgets.
In the method developed by engineers M. Amin Karami and Daniel J. Inman, vibrations in the chest cavity deform a layer of piezo-electric material that converts mechanical stress into electrical current. Tests indicate that the device could perform at heart rates from 7 to 700 beats per minute (well below and above the normal range), and that it could deliver eight times the energy required for a pacemaker. Furthermore, the authors write, the amount of energy generated is always larger than the amount required to run a pacemaker, regardless of heart rate.
Though the team has yet to develop a prototype that is biocompatible, they say that the potential to package this energy harvester with pacemakers gives it an advantage over competing methods.Norbert Sparrow