Device runs pacemakers using heartbeat-generated power

Engineers have successfully tested an energy-harvesting device designed to run pacemakers with power generated from heartbeats.

The team from Michigan University believes the piezoelectric device could eliminate the need for pacemaker users to have operations every five to seven years when their batteries run out.

‘Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years,’ said lead researcher M Amin Karami in a statement. ‘You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented.’

To test the prototype device, the researchers measured heartbeat-induced vibrations in the chest and used a ‘shaker’ to reproduce the vibrations in the laboratory, which were used to generate power through the piezoelectric technology.

Michigan’s technology is based on a non-linear energy harvester that isn’t limited to working at a specific heart rate because magnets enhance the power production and make the harvester less sensitive to heart-rate changes.

Measurements based on sets of 100 simulated heartbeats ranging from 20 to 600 beats per minute showed that the device generated more than 10 times the power than modern pacemakers require.

The next step will be implanting the energy harvester, which is about half the size of batteries now used in pacemakers, and eventually integrating it into commercial pacemakers.