Wireless Power For Life-Saving Medical Implants

Microelectronic implants have become quite sophisticated over the past decade, providing additional comfort to the patients who depend on them. One challenge associated with implants, particularly pacemakers, is to find a reliable power source that doesn’t require the patient to endure invasive battery-replacement surgeries. Some have suggested that pacemakers could be powered by the vibrations of the heart itself, but it will be a while before that technology is ready for testing.

In the meantime, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Hermsdorf have developed and patented a new power transfer system that could circumvent the limitations of previous battery-powered implants. The system consists of a portable transmitter module that transfers power wireless to a mobile generator module or receiver.

Wireless Transmitter

image via Fraunhofer IKTS

We’ve already determined that batteries are the least efficient power delivery method, since they only provide temporary power and implants are in place for years, if not permanently. Radio wave-based (HF) and inductive systems are also common, but their efficiency can be effected by location, position and movement and they’re limited in range. Fraunhofer IKTS researchers hope that their wireless alternative will solve these problems in a convenient manner.

In the wireless transfer module, a rotating magnet driven by an electronically commutated (EC) motor generates a magnetic rotary field. A magnetic pellet in the receiver connects to the alternating exterior magnetic field and as a result, is set in rotation itself. The rotational movement is transformed into electricity, thus the power is produced right in the generator module. The transmitter provides an electric current of over 100 milliwatts and has a range of about 50 centimeters.

“The cylindrical shaped transfer module is so small and compact that it can be attached to a belt,” researcher Holger Lausch said in a statement. “With our portable device, we can remotely supply power to implants, medication dosing systems and other medical applications without touching them.”

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

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