Researchers have developed a piezoelectric system that converts the heart’s vibrational energy into electricity to power pacemakers, eliminating the need for batteries. Unlike conventional pacemakers, leadless pacemakers are about the size of an AAA battery. They are delivered via a catheter through the leg to the heart, where they regulate the heart beat and blood flow.

The piezoelectric system converts the heart’s vibrational energy into electricity.
(Credit: University of Buffalo)

An initial device is roughly 1 cm3 cubed and is shaped like the letter S. Results show it produces sufficient power (at least 10 µW) for heart rates from 20 to 100 beats per minute. It does not use magnetics, making it compatible with MRI machines. A new device is a piezoelectric strip that is only about a half-centimeter long. It is designed to buckle as it absorbs vibrational energy from the heart. Simulations suggest it will can generate enough energy to power a heart rate up to 150 beats per minute.

The researcher’s next step is to conduct physical experiments on the new device, and to develop a way to attach a backup power source to the device.