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Novel energy harvesters extend pacemakers' battery life

30 Dec 2013

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Recently developed wideband hybrid energy harvesters could prolong the battery life of pacemakers, reducing the number of open-heart surgeries needed by heart patients. Professor Armaghan Salehian and colleagues at the University of Waterloo in Canada designed a prototype of the technology to produce electricity from ambient vibrations using various smart materials. The innovation could also be useful in wireless sensing applications such as devices that detect building cracks and damages.

There is strong demand for more energy-efficiency units in today's technology thanks to the increased use of electronic devices ranging from mobile phones and wireless sensors to medical implants. Self-sustained systems that can harvest different forms of ambient energy have the potential to lower costs and the need for regular battery replacements in devices such as pacemakers.

While other researchers have undertaken similar work, most of them developed devices designed for narrower ranges of vibration frequencies. Salehain noted that the prototype allows for harvested energy to be increased "at a wider range of frequencies".

"If a two-year-old child has to go through open heart surgery every seven or eight years that could translate into approximately ten surgeries in his or her life span to implant new pacemakers," said Salehian. "The number may be reduced noticeably by harvesting energy through vibrations and human motion to prolong the battery life."

Professor Salehian is currently working to establish industrial partnerships with companies in North America for the technology.

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