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Heartbeat-powered pacemaker skips the batteries

A prototype cardiac energy harvester out of the University of Michigan could one day harness the beating of a heart to power a pacemaker.

Pacemaker implanted
Could this battery-powered pacemaker become a relic of the past?
Lucien Monfils

Pacemaker users currently have to undergo surgery every 5 to 10 years to replace their device's battery. A new advance, however, could one day make pacemaker batteries obsolete.

A study presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012 shared the results of an experiment using piezoelectricity to power a pacemaker. Essentially, this refers to the concept of turning motion into electricity. That means the beating of the heart could generate the power needed for a pacemaker to operate.

"Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years. You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented," said lead author M. Amin Karami, a research fellow in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, in a release about the project.

The researchers developed a prototype cardiac energy harvester and hooked it up to a device that replicated the vibrations of a beating heart. The results generated more than enough power to run a pacemaker. The next step is developing the technology to a point where it can be integrated into commercial pacemakers, though the researchers have not given a timeframe for when that might happen.

I've always associated piezoelectricity with pickups for guitars. It's intriguing to think the same concept that makes my acoustic guitar audible in a club could also help power people's hearts.

(Via ExtremeTech)