According to a study around 700,000 people in the world get an artificial pacemaker implanted to end their heart rhythm disturbance problem. Though a patient can live normally after the operation, further frequent surgeries are needed to replace the onboard battery of the pacemaker. To end the need for these battery changing operations, researchers at the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan have tested an energy-harvesting device based on the principles of piezoelectricity that can generate an electrical charge from the motion of the heartbeat.
Since pacemakers require only a small amount of power to keep functioning, the use of a piezoelectric energy harvesting system seems practical enough. During tests designed to simulate a range of heartbeats, about 10 times the amount of energy was generated that is required to power the pacemaker. The energy generating device, which is about half the size of the battery conventionally used in pacemakers, also includes a self-powering back-up capacitor.
After successfully testing the technology, the researchers are now looking to build a commercial pacemaker with the energy generating device onboard and test its function on a real heart. If successful, the device could be beneficial for the hundreds of thousands of people with an artificial pacemaker.