Enterprising engineers are constantly figuring out ways to generate electricity from just about anything that has a little extra energy to give, from ocean waves and river currents to much smaller micro-generators that harvest ambient vibrations from automobiles crossing a bridge. Now Swiss researchers want to tap an even tinier source of energy: the human bloodstream.
European regulators have approved the sale of a new medical implant intended to be a less invasive option than gastric bypasses or stomach stapling procedures: a “gastric pacemaker” for the gut. When a person is eating, a device implanted in the abdomen triggers a premature notion of fullness by stimulating stomach nerves.
Future flexible lung belts could harness energy from the rhythm of your breathing, powering pacemakers or other implantable medical devices.
Nanotechnologists have found a way to integrate flexible piezoelectric materials with a stretchy silicone rubber, fashioning materials that can withstand lots of elastic strain while also harvesting energy from motion. Other piezoelectrics are not so elastic and can crack under pressure. Piezoelectrics, you’ll recall, turn kinetic energy into electrical energy.
Researchers are testing their system using an implanted device in the abdominal wall of a cow.
Implantable medical devices have improved the quality of life for many with conditions like arrhythmia or chronic heart failure, but an increased reliance on electronics to keep our bodies ticking comes with inherent security risks; as more and more devices rely on wireless capabilities to communicate vital data to doctors, the possibility that devices could come under attack from third parties is harrowing at best.
Think about it: Would you want someone launching the equivalent of a denial-of-service attack on the device that keeps your heart beating properly?