People-Powered Medical Devices?


Medical devices seem to get smaller every year. Think of something as simple as a pacemaker or hearing aid. Like their bretheren PCs, these gadgets that help enhance and extend our lives continue to shrink. Yet the size of a power source to drive the device cannot decrease in size at the same rate.

Like with solar power, what if power for medical devices could be generated by natural means – our bodies? There would truly be no limit as to how small an electronic medical device could get. And therefore replacement surgeries could be a thing of the past. Did you know our bodies maintain fluids in the ear that contain an electrochemical gradient? A report in Nature Biotechology featured Boston scientists who harnessed power from this liquid in the inner ear of a guinea pig. Using a tiny circuit board implanted into the furry friend’s ear they measured electricity via radio waves. Though only a nano watt every 5 hours, it is a start. It certainly won’t power the world, but the important thing to know is the guinea pigs hearing was not harmed in the entire process – making the experiment a minimally invasive process with no damage. So yes, perhaps a day will come when our bodies can be used as a power source and decrease the need for replacement surgeries on life saving devices.


Thanks: Technology Review

One review or comment

Coyote Says: November 12, 2012 at 7:38 am

Why can’t they use the same technique self-winding watches do? I would think with nano-carbon tubes and microscopic circuitry we could make a self charging gadget that wouldn’t require any outside source.

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