Engineers at Dartmouth College have invented a dime-sized piece of kit that turns the kinetic energy of the heart into electricity that could power a range of implantable devices. The invention works by adding a thin piece of polymer piezoelectric film, called "PVDF", to existing devices, such as pacemakers, which converts even the smallest motion into electricity. As well as "recharging" an implanted device, the same modules could also be used as sensors to collect real-time health data on patients.
"We knew it had to be biocompatible, lightweight, flexible, and low profile, so it not only fits into the current pacemaker structure but is also scalable for future multi-functionality," said research associate Lin Dong, who added that it is "of equal importance is that the device not interfere with the body's function." The team has just completed its first round of animal studies with "great results," and believes a self-charging pacemaker could be commercially available in as little as five years.