Charging Medical Implants With Light

In the future, implanted medical devices like pacemakers could be wirelessly charged through LED patches on the skin.

AsianScientist (Aug. 24, 2020) – Scientists in South Korea have developed a way to wirelessly charge implanted medical devices with LED light applied to the skin, doing away with the need for invasive surgery to replace spent batteries. Their results have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Medical devices such as pacemakers and cerebral spinal shunts have changed the lives of patients. However, the batteries that power these devices have a limited lifespan. Once the battery power gets exhausted, there is no other option but to perform invasive surgery to replace the battery, posing a risk of surgical complications such as bruising, infections and other adverse events.

“One of the greatest demands in biomedical electronic implants is to provide a sustainable electrical power for extended healthy life without battery replacement surgeries,” said study corresponding author Professor Lee Jongho of the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology. “If we can secure enough electrical power in our body, new types of medical implants with diverse functions and high performance can be developed.”

To get around this problem, Lee and his team took advantage of the fact that skin is inherently slightly translucent. They developed a micro-LED light source that can be attached to the skin, emitting photons of light that penetrate the tissue to reach an implanted photovoltaic device which then generates electricity.

When the scientists tested this power system in mice, they found that this wireless power transfer system was easy to use, regardless of weather, clothes, indoor or outdoor conditions, etc. The light photons emitted from the source patch successfully penetrated live tissues in mice and recharged the device in a wireless and convenient manner.

“These results enable the long-term use of currently available implants, in addition to accelerating emerging types of electrical implants that require higher power to provide diverse, convenient diagnostic and therapeutic functions in human bodies,” said Lee.

“Our device would probably not work for ‘Iron Man,’ but it can provide enough power for medical implants.”

The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2020) Active Photonic Wireless Power Transfer into Live Tissues.


Source: Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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