Tune In, Turn On, Power Up
Human beings don’t come with power sockets, but a growing numbers of us have medical implants that run off electricity. To keep our bionic body parts from powering down, a group of Arizona researchers is developing a safe, noninvasive, and efficient means of wireless power transmission through body tissue. The team presents their findings at the 166th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, held Dec. 2 – 6 in San Francisco, Calif.
Medical implants treat a variety of conditions such as chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, deep brain tremors, heart rhythm disturbances, and nerve and muscle disorders. If the batteries in the devices lose their charge, minor surgery is needed to replace them, causing discomfort, introducing the risk of infection, and increasing the cost of treatment.
This is a scenario the Arizona researchers are aiming to change.
Their novel wireless power approach is based on piezoelectric generation of ultrasound. The Greek root, “piezo”, means “squeeze.” In piezoelectrical systems, materials are squeezed or stressed to produce a voltage. In turn, applied voltages can cause compression or extension. Piezoelectric materials have specific crystalline structures. The team’s piezoelectric system has been tested in animal tissue with encouraging results.