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Power a pacemaker with your own heartbeat

Posting in Energy

Forget having to replace batteries… your own beating heart may generate enough electricity to power a pacemaker, Reuters reports.

In order to help the heart maintain a normal heartbeat, conventional implanted devices that send electrical impulses have to be replaced every five years or so when their batteries run out. This usually requires repeated surgeries.

This new energy-harvesting device runs on piezoelectricity -- the electrical charge generated from motion. Piezoelectric materials generate an electric charge when their shape is changed, BBC explains, and they’re used in microphones, for example, to convert vibrations into an electrical signal.

In order to use the movement of the heart as a source of electricity, researchers led by M. Amin Karami from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, first measured heartbeat-induced vibrations in the chest. Then they used a ‘shaker’ to reproduce these vibrations in the lab.

When these simulated heartbeats were connected to the prototype cardiac energy harvester, it generated more than 10 times the power required by modern pacemakers.

The device is about half the size of batteries being used in pacemakers and includes a self-powering back-up capacitor. The researchers are now working to integrate the system into a pacemaker, though it could also be used to power implantable defibrillators.

The work was presented at the scientific meeting of the American Heart Association in Los Angeles this week.

[Via Reuters, BBC]

Image by Manu_H via Flickr

— By on November 6, 2012, 8:23 AM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure