Powering pacemakers with heartbeat vibrations

Feb 01, 2012

Sick hearts may help to keep themselves beating longer with a device that could harvest energy from heartbeat-induced chest cavity vibrations.

Though pacemakers require only small amounts of energy (about 1 millionth of a Watt), their batteries have to be replaced periodically, which means multiple surgeries for patients. Researchers have searched for ways to prolong – trying to generate energy to power a using blood sugar, or the motion of the hands and legs – but these methods either interfere with metabolism or require a more drastic surgery, such as passing a wire from the limbs to the chest area. Aerospace engineers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor have developed a prototype device that could power a pacemaker using a source that is surprisingly close to the heart of the matter: vibrations in the chest cavity that are due mainly to heartbeats.

The authors describe the technique and their progress developing it in a paper recently published in the AIP's Applied Physics Letters. In their method, vibrations in the deform a layer of piezoelectric material, which is able to convert mechanical stress into electrical current. Tests indicate that the device could perform at heart rates from 7 to 700 beats per minute (well below and above the normal range), and that it could deliver eight times the energy required for a pacemaker. Furthermore, the authors write, the amount of energy generated is always larger than the amount required to run a pacemaker, regardless of heart rate. Though the team has yet to develop a prototype that is biocompatible, they say that the potential to package this energy harvester with pacemakers gives it an advantage over competing methods.

Explore further: Information storage for the next generation of plastic computers

More information: "Powering Pacemakers from Heartbeat Vibrations Using Linear and Nonlinear Energy Harvesters" is published in Applied Physics Letters.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

How to test the twin paradox without using a spaceship

11 hours ago

Forget about anti-ageing creams and hair treatments. If you want to stay young, get a fast spaceship. That is what Einstein's Theory of Relativity predicted a century ago, and it is commonly known as "twin ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.