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Harnessing the Human Body to Power Medical Devices

Updated on November 28, 2012


The future of powering medical devices like pacemakers, hearing aids, insulin pumps and pain management devices with the human body, call bioenergy, is coming. MIT is experimenting with tiny electronic chips, half the size of a US penny, to power tiny sensors without interfering with the animals functions. In this case, energy to operate the sensors was created inside of the pigs inner ear. The chip is so tiny it can easily be implanted.

Most devices in humans require a change of batteries and sometimes an operation to do so. If science can harness energy created by the human body, the need for batteries becomes obsolete. This energy can come from beating hearts, blood flow, lung contractions and arm\leg movements.

A heart pacemaker cannot be recharged and lasts 5-10 years and requires an operation to replace. It is hoped that bioenergy can replace the battery using the heart beat of the patient. The ear produces 70-100 millivolts, a single AA battery produces 10 times that amount. A normal heartbeat can produce 18 times the energy needed to power a pacemaker. Once the details and experiments are completed, a small chip could be implanted just under the skin to power the device. Engineers are trying to fabricate a self-powered pacemaker based upon using the body heat to power the circuit.



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