Today's pacemakers get their power from a battery that needs to be replaced every seven years (in some cases sooner) and that means a (little) surgery.
Now, researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have developed a pacemaker that can be powered by a piezoelectric sheet to be implanted along with the pacemaker. The normal movement of the body are sufficient to bend the sheet and to generate power for the pacemaker.
The test was made on a rat and even though the rat is minuscule compared to the human body the movements proved sufficient to generate the electrical signal that is used to stimulate the heart.
The piezoelectric sheet is the key component: it is made by a single crystal of PMN-PT thin film energy harvester that through bending and pushing motion can generate 8.2V and 0.22 mA.
The device was intended as a power supply for the pacemaker but now the researchers are looking into using it to supply power to implanted heart monitoring devices to detect signs of heart arrhythmia. As electronic circuits are becoming less and less energy hungry nano piezoelectric devices can be used to power them. This is very important for a future where we will have more and more implanted chips in our body, for monitoring and releasing medicines.
Piezoelectric generators will also turn handy for sensors and more generally Internet of Things where today one of the most difficult stumbling block is power.