Materials Science

Perpetual Heart Throb

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Science  16 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6185, pp. 673
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6185.673-b

Many cardiac conditions require the implantation of a pacemaker or defibrillator to help regulate the contractions of the heart. While these devices are extremely helpful in extending and improving the quality of a person's life, they need to be replaced every few years, primarily because of the limited life span of the batteries. One potential solution may come from energy-harvesting materials that can convert small mechanical motions into electrical energy, and thus could exploit cardiac motion, muscle contractions, and relaxation, or blood circulation as the driving source for power generation. Hwang et al. created a self-powered artificial pacemaker using single, crystalline PMNPT [(1-x) Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)O3 − x PbTiO3] placed on a thin plastic substrate. Through low-frequency flexing of the substrate back and forth, a current of more than 100 microamperes at 8 volts was generated, enough to power a string of commercial LED lights or recharge a coin battery. A sample device was implanted into the cardiac muscle of an anesthetized rat and enabled real-time electrical stimulation. The next step for the authors is to test a stack of devices to see if they can harvest energy from the heart of a larger animal such as a pig.

Adv. Mat. 10.1002/adma.201400562 (2014).

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