Energy harvesting from the human body (approximately 100W of consumption at rest) in various forms appears to be a near-perfect power source fit for implanted medical devices, but practical issues have impeded its adoption as a solution. Funded by a five-year NIH Director's Transformative Research Award, a research team at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College worked with UT Health San Antonio (part of the University of Texas) and developed a new way to build a piezo-based harvesting transducer for these medical devices.
Their approach uses a combination of thin-film energy-conversion materials with a minimally invasive mechanical design. The work and results are detailed in their paper “Flexible Porous Piezoelectric Cantilever on a Pacemaker Lead for Compact Energy Harvesting” published in Advanced Materials Technologies.
Providing implanted power is a formidable challenge, noted Dartmouth engineering professor John X.J. Zhang, “How do you create an effective energy source so the device will do its job during the entire life span of the patient, without the need for surgery to replace the battery?” Research associate Lin Dong added, “Of equal importance is that the device not interfere with the body’s function. We knew it had to be biocompatible, lightweight, flexible, and low profile, which also makes it not only fit into the current pacemaker structure, but also scalable for future multifunctionality.”