A Pacemaker Powered By The Beating Heart

By bonding piezoelectric layers to a flexible plastic frame, scientists in China have designed a pacemaker that could harvest energy from a beating heart.

AsianScientist (Mar. 1, 2019) – A research group in China has developed a method to power pacemakers using the beating motion of the heart. They published their findings in the journal ACS Nano.

Implantable pacemakers have altered modern medicine and saved lives by regulating heart rhythm. A conventional pacemaker is implanted just under the skin near the collarbone. Its battery and circuitry generate electrical signals that are delivered to the heart via implanted electrodes.

However, the batteries of most pacemakers last only five to 12 years, at which point they have to be replaced surgically. Because surgery can lead to complications, including infection and bleeding, various researchers have tried to build pacemakers that use the natural energy of heartbeats as an alternative energy source. Typically, these experimental devices are not powerful enough because of their rigid structure, and there are difficulties in miniaturizing them.

In the present study, researchers led by Professor Hao Zhang at the Institute of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Changhai Hospital, China, have designed a pacemaker that generates energy when bent. The researchers first fabricated a small, flexible plastic frame and bonded it to piezoelectric layers—materials that accumulate electric charge upon exposure to mechanical stress.

Implanting the device in pigs, the researchers showed that a beating heart could alter the frame’s shape and recorded a high-output current of 15 μA—enough power to match the performance of a battery-powered pacemaker. The scientists noted that their findings could pave the way for self-powered pacemakers in the future.

The article can be found at: Li et al. (2019) Direct Powering a Real Cardiac Pacemaker by Natural Energy of a Heartbeat.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Shutterstock.
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