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CNET - Nano-ribbons let beating hearts power their own pacemakers

DCN Corp® - A thin strip with piezoelectric power generators can convert this cow heart's movements into electrical power to run pacemakers or other medical devices. Credit - University of Illinois-Champaign (UoIC) and University of Arizona (UoA), USAProactive USA researchers demonstrate that materials dubbed piezoelectrics, which are packaged onto flexible strips attached to animal hearts can supply power for medical devices where at present batteries present issues

Modern day pacemakers supply electrical pulses so that a heart can keep a steady beat, and as shown by USA researchers may be it is time for the hearts to return the favour.

As electronics evolve to become smaller and smaller devices, a potentially new technology called energy harvesting can in some cases solve the problem of supplying electrical power. Researchers at the University of Illinois-Champaign (UoIC), USA, have shown that they can harvest energy from the movement of internal organs to power pacemakers and other medical devices that nowadays depend on chargeable batteries.

Essentially the USA researchers attached small flexible strips which they call piezoelectric nano-ribbons to organs, such as cows, sheep and pigs hearts. The research offers a new option for power pacemakers - surgically embedded devices which issue electric pulses to keep hearts ticking rhythmically - as well as heart rate monitors and other medical devices embedded within human bodies. However, the UoIC group are not the first to try the idea - alternatively their approach employs flexible strips and a piezoelectric made of Lead zirconate titanate (Pb[ZrₓTi₁₋ₓ]O₃ (0≤x≤1), PZT), which generates three-to-five times more current. The group published their research in Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS). Plus an encapsulation technique protects it from the body's immune system, and it's been tested to maintain its flexibility throughout 20 million flexes. The group argue, that their flexible strips are better suited to real world bodies than typically rigid electronic devices.

The researchers state in their paper - "Heart rate monitors, pacemakers, cardioverter-defibrillators, and neural simulators...rely on battery power for operation. Means for harvesting power directly from natural processes of the body represent attractive alternatives for these and future types of biomedical devices," In addition, the researchers stated - "Here we demonstrate a complete, flexible, and integrated system that is capable of harvesting and storing energy from the natural contractile and relaxation motions of the heart, lung and diaphragm at levels that meet requirements for practical applications."

Already piezoelectric materials are widely employed in a variety of systems from sensors-to-tiny loudspeakers because of a handy property, which is that they produce voltage when compressed, or alternatively compress when a voltage is applied to them. Thus, meaning  that piezoelectrics can be employed as physical sensors, due to their ability to convert pressure into an electrical signal and it being measurable.

Furthermore, it is claimed that the technique could work external to the body, which could be helpful for the rapidly emerging field of wearable computer field via the mechanical energy of human movement whereby it is more likely to power sensors than a power hungry mobile phone processor. Original article available here

Please Note energy harvesting also known as scavenging is a recent area of active research with research groups designing sensors and other small electronic devices. Other energy sources include heat, shock waves, vibrations and chemical reactions.

As with other USA studies, the research, above, clearly highlights the great potential of nanotechnology replacing modern day rechargeable/power intensive devices. As an alternative means of manufacturing - DCN Corp strongly believes it can compete. Going forward, if you and/or your colleagues are interested in making DCN Corp's alternative process reality - please ensure to contact the company as soon as practicably possible.