II-VI Marlow Blog

Body Heat - The Future to Charging Medical Devices

Current implanted medical devices, including pacemakers, have an enormous drawback due to their limited battery life. If a patient’s battery within their medical device runs out of power unexpectedly, it can have serious health implicants. This shortcoming restricts the ability for long term usage, but there may be a solution- the human body itself.

A human’s body produces 0.83 watts of power just from the motions of breathing; body heat generates an even greater 4.8 watts; the natural movement of arms produce up to 60 watts. On average, pacemakers need 50 millionths of a watt to last up to seven years and hearing assisting devices need a thousandth of a watt for five days.

Energy from Vibrations, Pressure, and Stress

In the medical industry, scientists are currently testing different ways of capturing, storing, and using energy produced various ways by the human body. One approach being tested is piezoelectricity, or energy generated from vibrations, pressure, and other stress. This experiment involves placing flat devices onto organs such as the heart, lungs, or diaphragm. When these devices move, positive and negative charges are generated and can be collected to charge batteries such as those in medical devices.

Energy from Body Heat

Another strategy involves a thermoelectric approach, harvesting the heat produced from within the body converting it into renewable energy. Every time a heart beats, heat is produced and displaced throughout the body. One challenge to this thermoelectric study is traditionally thermoelectric generators rely on temperature differences to operate, but human’s body temperature often does not fluctuate. Devices are being tested with relatively cool air to contrast the body’s natural heat. This test has been most successful in devices such as cochlear implants and wireless health monitors.

Other Tests Conducted

Scientists are also exploring potential energy sources from blood and sweat and static produced from the body. While various energy sources are being tested, one thing is for sure- future medical devices will no longer have to rely on traditional battery sources to provide power.

If you have a thermoelectric challenge, contact our experts via the link below.

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