Powering Medical Devices With A Human Heartbeat?!

Imagine what it would be like not to have access to defibrillators or pace makers or other countless medical devices that help save lives on a daily basis. Millions of people rely on these life-saving implantable devices and others powered by batteries that need to be replaced every five to ten years.

Those replacements require surgery which can be costly and can result in complications and infections. What if I were to tell you, that our heart’s bodily function and motion is so powerful that it can recharge those previous mentioned medical devices which save our lives.

According to a research team from Dartmouth College the possibility of this, is proving out to be true. The team of engineers from the Thayer School of Engineering were able to construct a dime-sized invention to prove that the kinetic energy of the heart can be converted into electricity to power a large variety of implantable medical devices.

You may be asking yourself, “How does it work?” Well the team’s work proposes modifying pacemakers to harness the kinetic energy of the lead wire that’s attached to the heart, converting it into electricity to continually charge the batteries.

The added material is a type of thin polymer piezoelectric film called “PVDF” and, when designed with porous structures either an array of small buckle beams or a flexible cantilever it can convert even small mechanical motion to electricity.

On an additional note, the same modules could potentially be used as sensors to enable data collection for real-time monitoring of patients, which only further increases the benefits for this medical device.

Medical Devices With A Human Heartbeat
(Image Credit: Patricio R. Sarzosa, Thayer School of Engineering)

This data is the result of the three-year study, completed by Dartmouth’s engineering researchers along with clinicians at UT Health San Antonio, were just published in the cover story for Advanced Materials Technologies.

According to Dartmouth engineering professor John X.J. Zhang, “We’re trying to solve the ultimate problem for any implantable biomedical device.” and that, “The two remaining years of NIH funding plus time to finish the pre-clinical process and obtain regulatory approval puts a self-charging pacemaker approximately five years out from commercialization.”

“We’ve completed the first round of animal studies with great results which will be published soon,” said Zhang. “There is already a lot of expressed interest from the major medical technology companies, and Andrew Closson, one of the study’s authors working with Lin Dong and an engineering PhD Innovation Program student at Dartmouth, is learning the business and technology transfer skills to be a cohort in moving forward with the entrepreneurial phase of this effort.”

See Full Article: Human Heartbeat


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