The future of wearable Health Tech devices depends on their ability to get under our skin. Implants are the shortest distance to reliable, always-on biometric sensing and other interactive tasks. One important barrier to this future is the size of the device. Larger devices are more intrusive and tend to require more power, which in turn makes it difficult to make them smaller.
Heraeus is a company based in Germany that develops high-tech materials for a wide range of applications. One of their most recent developments is CerMet, an innovative combination of ceramic material and platinum metal. Ceramic materials are durable and an excellent electrical insulator. The challenge has been to create contacts to conduct electricity from sensors and other components, due to the uneven expansion rates of ceramics and metals. Wires would have to be inserted and soldered manually. This new material combines ceramic and platinum in a composite material that is stable and can be assembled automatically. The technology permits the creation of conductors as small as 0.15 mm across. This will make it practical to create implants that are a fraction of the size of current devices.
For example, this could advance the retina implants that conduct signals from light sensors to the patient’s optic nerve. Current devices are limited to 64 channels, which creates a very low resolution “image.” The Cermet technology can put more than 1,000 channels in the same space, providing more than 15 times the resolution. By comparison, the difference between a VGA resolution image and a Full High Definition television image is less than 7 times the resolution.
This new technology can lead to smaller, more power efficient, and more capable implant devices for applications including heart pacemakers, brain-prosthetic limb interfaces, hearing loss replacement, and countering Parkinson’s disease symptoms.