Millions of patients worldwide benefit from small electrical appliances in their bodies. The best-known example in this context is probably the pacemaker. So far, the devices are powered by an integrated battery with power. The problem: This has to be replaced every five to ten years. This is possible but only by a new operation. This approach is not only relatively expensive, but also entails additional risks. Even routine operations are never completely safe. Researchers at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth may have come up with an interesting solution to the problem: a pacemaker powered by the kinetic energy of the heart.
Incidentally, important data can also be collected
For this purpose, a thin piezoelectric polymer film with the rather unusual name "PVDF" was integrated into the device. This is able to turn even the smallest movements into electricity. Because the energy consumption of pacemakers is already very low today, this is enough to provide the life-saving implant with the required power on a permanent basis. The researchers go even further in their reflections. Because theoretically, the material can also be used as a sensor with which, for example, the uniformity of the heartbeat is measured. In this way, real-time, long-term monitoring would be achieved without excessive restrictions for the patient.
In five years, a finished product could come onto the market
The participating scientists currently assume that a marketable product could be created within the next five years. The next two years should now be used to complete the preclinical phase. At the end of this process would be the official approval by the authorities. Then the first prototypes could be tested under real conditions. So far only a few experiments have been done on animals. These were very promising. Later, the new technology will not only be used for pacemakers, but also for other in-body medical implants that need to be powered. At the latest then it would be a billion market.