Researchers at the University of care working on a pacemaker that can harness the power of the beating heart. If successful, the promising pacemaker will be battery-less and can possibly last a lifetime. As you know, pacemakers are devices that regulate the human heartbeat through electrodes and currents. These require batteries, which explains why pacemaker users require open heart surgery every seven years.
Piezoelectric materials generate a small amount of electricity when they vibrate. The challenge is to use a smaller piezoelectric material to collect pulses of electricity each time the heart beats. Daniel Inman, the Chair of the University’s Aerospace Engineering Department, says that they were able to demonstrate a hundredth-of-an-inch material generating 18 microwatts of power, which is enough to power 18 pacemakers. “We’ve proven that it’s definitely do-able,” says Amin Karami, a graduate research fellow.
The end goal will be to develop a smaller and stable, fully-functioning heart-powered pacemaker. For pacemaker users, this means that they only need a single operation, therefore reducing the risk of complicated surgeries. Another benefit of battery-less pacemakers is that they are not affected by magnetic fields, such as MRI. “I looked at that and wondered, ‘How would you power medical devices?’” Karami said. “Then I looked down at my chest and thought, ‘Well, the heart is something that vibrates.’”