A New Way Has Been Found To Power Tiny Electronic Body Implants Via Wireless Technology

Photograph of a batteryless electrostimulator on a human finger for size comparison. John Ho and colleagues designed patterned metal structures to focus electromagnetic energy deep within biological tissue, allowing power to be wirelessly transferred to tiny implanted medical devices. Image courtesy of Alexander J. Yeh.

US scientists have developed a wireless device which may provide a means to power miniaturised medical electronics implanted in living bodies.

Engineering advances have enabled the miniaturisation of electronic medical implants but methods for powering the implants have not kept pace.

John S. Ho of Stanford University and colleagues investigated an alternative to conventional near-field wireless power transfer, which has a range limited by the size of the implant, by employing a technique called midfield powering which can theoretically reach small but deeply implanted medical electronic devices.

The authors designed a patterned, electromagnetic metal plate which delivered up to 2,000 microwatts of power through 5cm of tissue to reach the heart or brain.

Conventional pacemakers require 8 microwatts of power, a fraction of the power generated by the electromagnetic plate.

An experiment with a rabbit demonstrated the plate’s ability to power an electrostimulator implanted 4.5cm deep on the surface of the heart, enabling regulation of the rabbit’s cardiac rhythm.

A batteryless electrostimulator next to pharmaceutical pills. Image courtesy of Austin Yee.

The plate transmitted power at a level below the threshold for human safety and patterning on the plate’s surface enabled the electromagnetic field to be focused on a small area around the microimplant.

According to the authors, the results demonstrate that a midfield wireless device may safely power or recharge microimplants through different tissue types.

The study, “Wireless power transfer to deep-tissue microimplants”, is published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

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