Ulrasound powers active implants

Ulrasound powers active implants

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

The technology demonstrated by the Fraunhofer team at the Medica trade fair in Düsseldorf (Germany) is an alternative to conventional power technologies like batteries or inductive power transmission. It does not only require less space than batteries, it is also more efficient than inductive charging, the scientists claim. The reason is that ultrasonic waves can penetrate the metal casing of the implants easier and with less losses than electromagnetic fields. In addition, ultrasonic waves can transport bidirectional data on top of the power. Examples are the temperature of the implant or information as to type and intensity of the electric stimulation.

The technology platform is of universal use, the scientists say. The demonstrator can be adapted to very different types of applications and model variants. Its power supply works with or without a battery, and it can be configured for the most diverse types of active implants. The researchers believe that their technology platform be used with implants used for the treatment of widespread diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease. The complete system consists of the transmitter which remains outside of the body and the receiver which will be integrated into the implant.

The ultrasonic waves are transmitted and received by piezoelectric transducers, the scientists added. “In contrast to drugs, active implants do not stress the body and they do not have side effects in other parts of the body”, explained Peter-Karl Weber from Fraunhofer IBMT’s ultrasound department. “In order to make the treatment more effective, we need more powerful and miniaturized while robust technology approaches for active implants. With our demonstrator, we have proved that ultrasound is a new way to supply electric energy to active implants,” Weber said.

Now the institute is searching for partners in the industry for the development of a commercial product. The market researcher BBC Research estimates the market for microelectronic medical implants to $24.6 billion and predicts a growth to $37.6 billion in 20121.  

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