Implantable Medical Device to be Powered by Human Body Fluids

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The supercapacitor could aid in development of pacemakers and other implantable medical devices that can last for lifetime.

The University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Connecticut have designed novel energy storage system called a biological supercapacitor. It is operated using charged particles or ions from fluids in the human body. The study was published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials in May 2017.

Conventionally implantable devices are powered by batteries that eventually run out of power and require constant replacement. Batteries contain toxic materials that could harm the patient upon leakage. The aim of the study was to store energy in devices without a battery. The supercapacitor is charged using electrolytes from biological fluids such as blood serum and urine.

It works along with another device called an energy harvester, which converts heat and motion from the human body into electricity. The electricity is captured by the supercapacitor. “Combining energy harvesters with supercapacitors can provide endless power for lifelong implantable devices that may never need to be replaced,” said Maher El-Kady, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher and a co-author of the study.

Advance pacemakers are about 6 to 8 millimeters thick and about half of that space is occupied by the battery. The supercapacitor is 1 micrometer thick, which could improve implantable devices energy efficiency. The biosupercapacitor comprises a carbon nanomaterial called graphene layered with modified human proteins as an electrode. It can bend and twist inside the body without any mechanical damage, and store more charge than the energy lithium film batteries of comparable size that are currently used in pacemakers.

According to Active Implantable Medical Devices Market report published by Coherent Market Insights, active implantable medical devices function by relying on electrical energy or other power source, which can have limited supply. The new platform of using supercapacitors could develop next-generation implantable device, which can speed up bone growth, promote healing or stimulate the brain.

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