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Pacemaker powered by heartbeats a step closer

Scientists in China have tested the technology on pigs (stock photo)
Scientists in China have tested the technology on pigs (stock photo)

By John von Radowitz

A way of using heartbeats to power pacemakers, sparing patients the ordeal of regular surgery, has been developed.

The devices have saved countless lives but have a serious drawback: they need batteries.

The new system avoids the need for batteries by taking energy from the pumping heart.

Scientists in China have tested the technology on pigs.

It employs the property that certain "piezoelectric" materials have of producing an electric current when stressed.

The 'generator' consists of a tiny elastic structure made up of layers of material which cause electricity to flow.

The pig tests showed that the device was capable of generating strong enough currents to power a pacemaker.

The team, led by Bin Yang, from the National Key Laboratory of Science and Technology in Shanghai, wrote in the journal ACS Nano: "Although several approaches of energy-harvesting have been explored for powering cardiac pacemakers, the modern commercial and full-function pacemaker has never been powered effectively yet.

"Here we report a strategy for directly powering a modern and full-function cardiac pacemaker by harvesting the natural energy of a heartbeat. Translating this strategy into a clinical one will exempt patients from surgical replacement."

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