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According to the results, the new harvester generated more than 10 times the power that traditional pacemakers need

Pacemakers could one day draw power from a patient's heartbeat, eliminating the need for several battery replacement surgeries.

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan, headed by M. Amin Karami, PhD, has created a nonlinear harvester for pacemakers that is capable of storing energy from the vibrations of a beating heart. 

The nonlinear harvester uses piezoelectricity, which is an electrical charge generated from motion. Vibrations from heartbeats were measured in the chest of patients, and then a "shaker" was used to replicate the vibrations in the laboratory. The shaker was connected to a prototype cardiac energy harvester in order to measure its performance. Performance was based on sets of 100 simulated heartbeats at many different rates. 

According to the results, the new harvester generated more than 10 times the power that traditional pacemakers need.

The nonlinear harvester uses magnets to make it "less sensitive" to heart rate changes, making it capable of greater power production. In other words, if a heart beat is slower than another, the harvester can still generate enough power from it to keep running on its own, as opposed to a linear harvester that can be affected by heart rate changes. 

The new harvester is also beneficial because it isn't affected by cell phones or microwaves

"Many of the patients are children who live with pacemakers for many years," said Karami. "You can imagine how many operations they are spared if this new technology is implemented." 

Pacemaker batteries must be changed every five to seven years. 

Source: Science Daily

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Odd choice of harvesting target...
By boeush on 11/5/2012 6:31:13 PM , Rating: 2
One would assume failing hearts don't need any additional loads placed upon them, such as a piezo harvester would be.

Why not harvest from an anatomically nearby source that's independent of the heart and yet equally "always-on" -- the diaphragm? The deformation of the chest during breathing ought to be more than enough to provide piezo power, no?

By Solandri on 11/5/2012 10:06:44 PM , Rating: 5
Pacemakers are usually used in patients with an arrhythmia - irregular heartbeat. The heart muscle itself is not weak. The problem is in the electrical impulses which tell the heart muscles to contract.

Either the triggering impulse is weak, or the impulses do not travel across the heart evenly or smoothly resulting in contractions which are not in phase enough for good pumping efficiency (e.g. one side of the heart is relaxing while the other is contracting). The pacemaker generates an artificial and stronger electrical impulse which "fixes" the problem.

RE: Odd choice of harvesting target...
By Samus on 11/5/2012 11:21:30 PM , Rating: 2
I can't believe your comment was rated up. I know it might seem the terminology used, aka harvesting implies they are using the heart to create energy, but it isn't such at all. They're not "placing load" on the heart. They're absorbing the already existing vibrations it gives off.

If anything, they're "reducing load" on other parts of the body that would otherwise be absorbing the vibrations...

RE: Odd choice of harvesting target...
By bobsmith1492 on 11/6/2012 7:02:46 AM , Rating: 2
Usually that type of energy extraction still puts a load on the source, like a turbocharger on a car's exhaust.

RE: Odd choice of harvesting target...
By othercents on 11/6/2012 8:21:26 AM , Rating: 2
That would only be true if they were putting a turbo charger on the blood flow out of the heart. This is more like a solar panel where using a solar panel doesn't put any strain on the sun.

By Samus on 11/6/2012 6:15:54 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, the turbo charger analogy doesn't apply here. Again, this isn't placing load on the heart.

What the OP was saying is liken to solar power reducing the lifespan of the sun. Solar power/Wind power and even hydro electric power doesn't increase load on the resources that fuel them.

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