Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Body energy to recharge life-saving medical implants like pacemakers, defibrillators, and neurotransmitters

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A group of Indian medical researchers has come out with a model that would use the body energy to recharge life-saving medical implants like pacemakers, defibrillators, and neurotransmitters for as long as 30 years.

At present pacemakers and defibrillators use batteries that need to be replaced at regular intervals through painful surgical procedures. The average life of these batteries is five to eight years. Pacemakers and defibrillators are implanted in people with severe heart problems, while neurotransmitters are used in Parkinson's patients.

The model devised by researchers at the department of biomedical engineering, Deenbandhu Chottu Ram University of Science and Technology, Haryana, utilises the body energy by converting it into electrical power to recharge the batteries in the medical implants for almost 30 years.
The research was carried out by Dr Dinesh Bhatia and his team.

According to Dr Bhatia, some of the power sources in the body are the heartbeat, blood flow inside the vessels, movement of the body parts, and the body temperature. Different types of sensors can be used for sensing the energy from the heartbeat. Later, this mechanical energy can be converted into electricity. For sensing the blood flow energy, nanogenerators driven by ultrasonic waves can be used to directly convert the hydraulic energy in human body to electrical energy.

"For the biothermal device to work, it needs a 2°C temperature difference across it. But there are many parts of the body, where a temperature difference of 5°C exists, typically in the few millimetres just below the skin, where it is planned to place this device," he pointed out.

The body power can be used to 'trickle charge' batteries for medium-power devices like defibrillators, or to directly power low energy devices, such as pacemakers. These power systems have the potential to run for as long as 30 years, five times more than the presently available batteries.

The team is also doing research on a thermoelectric module that requires about 4000 elements on a small surface area of six centimetres by two centimetres.

"With the advent of nanotechnology revolution, the ability to put thousands of these small semiconductor nodes that convert heat to electricity in the small space, similar to the size of one or two postage stamps, has become feasible. The rechargeable battery can be implanted in the skin, where temperature differences of up to 5°C exist. This device may then be employed to power pacemakers as well as other devices, such as the tiny neurotransmitters that are implanted in the brain for treatment of Parkinson's disease," Dr Bhatia observed.

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