New Device Enables the Heart to Power Life-Saving Devices

Device converts the heart’s kinetic energy into electricity to charge batteries.

The heart is a unique organ that is at the very center of human life. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that various technological devices such as implantable pacemakers and defibrillators have been developed to mitigate heart attacks and promote proper heart functioning. Though, these devices come with one limitation: the batteries are not self-sustaining and need to be surgically removed and replaced every five to ten years. But with this new cardiac energy-harvesting device, this problem is set to become history.

The cardiac energy harvesting device. (Image courtesy of Dartmouth Engineering.)

The cardiac energy harvesting device. (Image courtesy of Dartmouth Engineering.)

The dime-sized device was made out of a thin piezoelectric film (PVDF) designed with porous structures via an array of miniature buckle beams. This unique design allows it to translate even very small mechanical motion into electricity. By attaching the lead wire to the wall of the heart, the device is able to translate the generated kinetic energy into electricity which can be used to charge the batteries of implantable devices such as pacemakers.

With this new technology, implantable life-saving devices can potentially function for the entire life span of the patient, without the need for surgery or battery replacement. And aside from the ability to generate electricity, this device is also believed to have a potential application as a sensor for real-time data collection in patients. 

To fit into existing pacemaker configurations, the device was created to be lightweight, flexible, bio-compatible and low-profile. However, it is also scalable enough to adapt to any future multi-functional requirements.

This device was developed by researchers from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth as part of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. The full findings of the three-year study were published in Advanced Materials Technologies. The first set of self-charging pacemakers is projected to be commercially available by 2024, after the current clinical trials conclude and the team obtains the necessary regulatory approvals.

For more interesting news about heart technology, check out Device Gives Rapid Heart Attack Results.