Shine a Light Instead of Changing the Battery
Light-driven implantable converter for bioelectronics devices
Pacemakers and other implanted medical devices require electric current to operate. Changing the battery requires an additional operation, which is an added stress on the patient. A Japanese team led by Eijiro Miyako at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has now introduced an alternative approach in the journal Angewandte Chemie: an implantable converter that can simply be irradiated with laser light through the skin.
Bioelectronic devices help many patients to live longer and to experience a better quality of life. Pacemakers are not the only electronic implants used today; there are also “pain pacemakers” that alleviate severe chronic pain. These are neurostimulators that send electrical impulses directly to the spinal cord to block the signal pathway that transmits pain to the brain. Another example is the implantable drug pump, which can direct painkillers near the spinal cord or provide insulin for diabetics.
Such electronic implants are usually powered by lithium batteries that last at most ten years. The battery must then be changed in another operation. A rechargeable version is thus desirable. Various alternatives are currently available, such as electric cells that are driven by glucose within the body, or muscle-driven dynamos. The disadvantage is that the production of current cannot be controlled. Other approaches operate through electromagnetic current generation, but this can disrupt electronic devices in the vicinity.
The Japanese team has now developed an interesting alternative, a device that delivers current upon irradiation with a laser. At the heart of the system are very finely divided carbon nanotubes embedded in a silicon matrix. These absorb laser light and convert the light energy very effectively to heat. This heat energy is in turn converted into electric current by the tiny device. This works through the Seebeck effect: in an electrical circuit made of two different conductors—in this case a special arrangement of semiconductor materials—a temperature difference between the contacts results in a small voltage.
Only the side of the device coated with the silicon/carbon nanotube composite that gets irradiated heats up, which provides the required temperature difference. Because the carbon nanotubes absorb very well in a range of wavelengths that can pass through tissue, the device, which need be no larger than a half-centimeter cube, can be implanted under the skin. Simple irradiation should then allow it to generate enough voltage to charge the battery of a pacemaker or other device.
The researchers are now working on making the energy conversion of the device even more efficient and to increase its safety for medical applications.
About the Author
Dr Eijiro Miyako is a researcher of the Health Research Institute (HRI) at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Japan. His main specialty is nanocarbon technology, and his research focuses on the development of highly functional nanocarbons for biotechnology and medical science.
Author: Eijiro Miyako, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Ikeda (Japan), mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Title: A Photo-Thermal-Electrical Converter Based On Carbon Nanotubes for Bioelectronic Applications
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201106136
| Angewandte Chemie
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...