TECH BUZZ || HO T LABS BY ELLIOT LUBER
The mechanical energy harvester, which is
flexible enough to conform to the surface
of an organ such as the heart, converts the
organ's motion into electricity.
Photo: Univ. of Illinois/UA
Pacemakers are critical pieces of medical technology, but they require battery changes once every
six years. A new class of implanted nano
transducers may eliminate that problem.
Developed by a team led by Canan Dagdeviren, at the time a doctoral candidate at
the University of Illinois, these piezoelectric ceramic nano materials could enable
future pacemakers to convert the body’s
autonomic physical motion to electrical
power by bending and stretching through
direct contact with the beating heart, rising
diaphragm, or expanding lungs.
The transducers could also use voluntary muscle motion to power an externally
mounted monitoring device.
The development of the new device family has specific benefits for heart patients.
Such a device could not only end the need
to surgically replace pacemakers when
their batteries grow weak, but could ultimately make them affordable and practical
to a much larger global population who
may be able to afford the costly procedure
“The motion of the human heart normally generates energy, but this simply
IN AN AGE WHEN EMBEDDED SENSORS and actuators are creating “the Internet of things,”
nano transducers are helping to put humans back into the equation. This month, we look at
how one lab uses a patient’s own heart, lung, and diaphragm movement to create piezoelectric charges that may one day power pacemakers. And another lab uses sensors to measure
human-machine system performance in the automotive field.
THE LAB Frederick Seitz Materials Research
Laboratory, Illinois University, Urbana-
Champaign. John A. Rogers, laboratory director.
OBJECTIVE To use biomechanics to extend the
useful life of pacemakers beyond the current
six-year battery life.
DEVELOPMENT A nano-scale piezoelectric
device generates its own power by converting
the motion of the heart, lungs, and diaphragm to
electrical charges as it bends and stretches.