Pacemakers powered by… the beating of the heart.

Imagine a Pacemaker which generates power from the very organ it’s serving.

That’s M. Amin Karami’s idea, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Buffalo. Today’s Pacemakers only use 40% of the device to actually generate pulses while the rest is taken up by battery. This means that the concentrated power of this implant goes into harvesting more power for itself. And when the battery goes out, surgery has to be undergone to change it every seven or so years.

Karami designed a flat ceramic piezoelectric structure which works in tandem with the vibrations in the heart where it is nestled. The vibrations are generated by heartbeats: Karami found that 7 to 700 heartbeats per minute generated enough power to keep the pacemaker functioning normally. The challenge rested in designing a pacemaker which fits in a the lozange shaped device – even smaller than how today’s conventional pacemakers are. It was possible using a 3D structure. Whatever the obstacles, the benefits outweigh the challenges 100:1. There are no leads connecting the device to the heart, just a tiny module, lodged within the organ itself, generating its power from its surroundings. Very much like nature designed it to be.

This kind of leadless pacemaker doesn’t need surgery: it can be implanted through a catheter in a vein. In addition to this, it reduces failure risks because there aren’t leads attached which could get ripped when the heart moves (which happens an awful lot). It’s still in its initial concept stages: in two years, animal testing would be completed, at which point human testing would commence.


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