A beating heart can become a power plant, thanks to a stamp-size patch that turns muscle movements into electricity. The device, which incorporates a lead zirconate titanate nanoribbon with gold wiring, generates an electric current as it bends and stretches. Applying a new fabrication process, researchers at the USA’s University of Illinois were able to use these types of high-quality materials for the first time. When they sewed the patch to the hearts, lungs and diaphragms of living animals, it could harvest and store up to 8 volts of electricity, with currents up to five orders of magnitude greater than in previous tests. That’s enough to power a pacemaker or other biomedical implants, such as blood-sugar monitors and neural stimulators, which need a battery change every five to 10 years.
Up next, the researchers will test the patch in long-term animal studies. Within five years battery-replacement surgeries could be obsolete.
Watch as the device is affixed to a bovine heart… (The anchoring scheme used sutures at three points to maintain focal contact, though without rigid attachment so as to minimise any alteration or constraint on cardiac motion.)
– Sarah Fecht