Pacemakers That Get Their Energy from . . . the Heart

February 8, 2012 – 9:27 am

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.

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  1. 3 Responses to “Pacemakers That Get Their Energy from . . . the Heart”

  2. I give it golden raspberry medal. Taking energy away from the an organ we try to stimulate and strenghten seems like a lot of nonsense. Why not piezo trousers – taking away energy from the legs, or piezo gloves .. etc? All rights reserved.

    By igor on Feb 14, 2012

  3. Hello,

    I’m a biomedical engineer with pacer design experience. A heart pacer doesn’t strengthen the heart. Rather, it provides a small electrical shock to the SA node which controls the rate of a beating heart.

    Typically, a pacer treats bradycardia or a slow heart beat. Since it takes very little energy to stimulate the SA node and restore rhythm, this technology seems to have a lot promise. Congratulations for such innovative design!


    By Joe on Feb 14, 2012

  4. Pacemakers that get their energy from . . . the heart ~ DONE AS DEMO WELL ALMOST BUT NOT DUSTED TWO DECADES AGO
    Two decades ago as spin-out from military gizmo-gaming we explored microrisation of PZ actuators to submm size as candidate for arterial diagnostic interrogation during transit incorporating not just active ultrasonics but also transceiver to be powered by blood pressure pulsations. We weren’t ambitious enough to envisage pacemaker variants of essentially the same idea but then it was a long time ago and in any case the work was decapitated by piratisation of the UK defence labs when my network disappeared overnight as all the good guys ran away to early retirement rather than risk retraining as superficial salesman such as had happened to top class techies on piratisation of UKAEA.

    By NEALE THOMAS on Feb 16, 2012

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