Pacemakers could be powered by organ implant

Researchers teams from several U.S. academic institutions and one from China created a small, piezoelectric device that, when attached to a constantly moving organ — such as the heart, lung or diaphragm — can produce electricity to power a pacemaker or other medical implant.

The device incorporates lead zirconate titanate nanoribbons that are housed in a flexible, biocompatible plastic. It is also included an integrated rectifier that converts the electric signals, plus a miniature rechargeable battery. The organ’s constant motion causes the nanoribbons to bend, thus creating small amounts of electricity.

Currently, when pacemakers run low on juice, surgery is required to have it replaced. While surgery is necessary for implanting these new kinetic energy-harvesting devices, the idea is that they could be powered for a lifetime simply by using the body’s natural rhythms. Until present, the devices have only been tested on cows and other large animals. Additional  long-term testing is needed before the devices are ready for clinical trials.

News, Jan 23, 2014