Implantable medical devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators are life-changing, but their need for frequent charging can be a problem. However, engineers may have a solution in the form of heart power.

Researchers from Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College have developed a small device about the size of a US dime or a UK 5p coin that harnesses the heart’s motion and converts it into power.

The amount of kinetic energy produced by the heart is significant enough that the device can be used to recharge the batteries in a host of implantable medical devices. These include some of the most commonly used life-saving devices, such as pacemakers and defibrillators.

The technology has the potential to eliminate the need for regular surgeries, which are currently required every five to ten years to replace batteries in such devices.

How heart power could fix the “ultimate problem” for medical devices

The device has been developed with the goal of putting an end to such surgeries, meaning it has the potential to be game-changing for the medical device industry.

“We’re trying to solve the ultimate problem for any implantable biomedical device,” explained study lead and Dartmouth engineering professor John X.J. Zhang.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

“How do you create an effective energy source so the device will do its job during the entire lifespan of the patient, without the need for surgery to replace the battery?”

Created with support from clinicians at the University of Texas in San Antonio, the device is modified from a pacemaker, with an additional polymer film capable of converting mechanical motion into electricity, allowing it to harness heart power.

It also has the potential to be used as a sensor, allowing data to be collected in real-time and aid the long-term monitoring of at-risk patients.

However, it is also designed to avoid any impact on the heart itself, ensuring it is safe to be used in patients.

“Of equal importance is that the device not interfere with the body’s function,” said study first author and Dartmouth research associate Lin Dong.

“We knew it had to be biocompatible, lightweight, flexible, and low profile, so it not only fits into the current pacemaker structure but is also scalable for future multi-functionality.”

Developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health, the project is in relatively early stages, having only been trialled in animals at present.

However, it is already generating significant interest from major medical companies, and is expected to be commercially available in around five years.

Read more: World Cancer Day: three promising therapies for neglected rare cancers