Nobody gives out medals for doing everything with electronics. Sometimes, an old-fashioned mechanical solution can work as well or better than some futuristic approach. We’ve reported here before about energy harvesting technology to provide long-term power for implanted pacemakers (Implant Harvests Energy), but a report in the European Society of Cardiology Congress News 2014 describes a system as simple and reliable as Swiss watch. A group of Swiss scientists have used a mechanical self-winding watch mechanism to generate enough power to operate a pacemaker.
Just as in a watch, motion energy is used to wind up a spring that then can release that energy to be converted into electricity as needed. There is no need for a chemical battery of any sort to store the power. The researchers covered the mechanism in a plastic housing that was then attached to the outside of a pig’s beating heart. The device was able to produce more than 50 microwatts of power, which is much greater than the 10 microwatts required to power a pacemaker.
The group now is working on making the device even smaller and more efficient at capturing the energy from heart beats. As the lead researcher points out, this type of device could also be used to provide a steady source of electricity for other implanted devices, such as defibrillators or drug pumps.