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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

When the battery in your implanted medical devices runs out you run to the hospital for emergency surgery to change it – no more.

 

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We’ve heard about using wireless charging to charge our phones, and wireless energy transmission systems that beam energy down from space and across mountain ranges, but in spite of all these energy developments today one of the problems with powered medical implants such as pacemakers is the fact that when their batteries run out of juice, they have to be surgically replaced – and that’s a pain in the rear to say it mildly. According to a new study, though, it may someday be possible to recharge those batteries by shining nothng more than a light through the patient’s skin.

 

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Led by Prof. Jongho Lee, a team of scientists at South Korea’s Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) have developed what’s known as an “Active Photonic Power Transfer” system that consists of a flexible patch containing an array of micro-LEDs, along with a photovoltaic device that’s attached to an implant.

When the patch is applied to the skin and its LEDs are switched on, their light shines down through the patient’s biological tissue, reaching the device. It responds by generating an electrical current, which is used to recharge the implant’s battery – keep in mind that pacemakers are typically located just beneath the skin.

 

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A prototype version of the system has already been tested on mice, successfully recharging implants within the animals’ bodies under a variety of settings and environmental conditions.

Once developed further, it is believed that the technology may not only eliminate the need to surgically remove existing implants for battery-changes, but that it could also allow for the creation of new types of implants that have higher power requirements.

“Currently, a lack of a reliable source of power limits the functionality and performance of implanted medical devices,” says Lee. “If we can secure enough electrical power in our body, new types of medical implants with diverse functions and high performance can be developed.”

 

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A paper on the GIST research was recently published in the journal PNAS.

Source: Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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