Light from low-power infrared lasers can help promote bone growth, speeding up healing after bone repairs. One problem is that patients can only spend a limited time getting light treatments in a clinical setting. Wouldn’t it be great if you could create a wearable device that would provide the laser treatment all the time as the patient goes through normal daily activities? And wouldn’t it be great if the device didn’t need any batteries, but instead harvested energy from the patient’s movements?
Like so many great ideas, this one has already been achieved. Researchers from Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems and Beihang University in China have done just that. They have created a device that can be implanted to provide laser treatment for bone repair, powered by harvesting energy from the patient. The power portion is made up of two different layers that create electrical charges as they are compressed. They are joined by an electrical circuit that then directly powers the infrared laser. The system has been tested on mice, and the motion caused by the animal’s breathing was sufficient to power the device.
Presumably, this energy-harvesting design can be applied to other implantable devices and devices worn outside the body, eliminating the need to recharge or replace batteries. This could open up all sorts of new applications, such as creating a practical network of sensors around the body.