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An implanted pacemaker seen on a frontal chest X-ray. Photo: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

Engineers at Dartmouth University have developed a new method to charge implanted cardiac devices with energy derived from the motion of heartbeats.

Why it matters: A major challenge in medical implant design is reducing device size without sacrificing the battery power and energy needed to sustain biological functions. Because the Dartmouth method enables charging upon use, it may allow for a smaller-sized battery and more comfortable designs that don't carry the risk of surgical complications from replacement.

Background: Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. It is estimated that over 800,000 Americans have implanted cardiac devices, with more than 10,000 patients undergoing surgical implantation every month. Cardiac devices deliver low-energy pacing and electrical currents to correct heart rhythms and potentially fatal arrhythmias.

  • Most are made of titanium and include a pulsed generator with a sealed lithium battery and wires incorporated with electrodes attached to the heart.
  • Currently, the batteries in these devices are not rechargeable and typically require surgical replacement after 5–12 years. The surgery, although considered minor, always carries risk of infection and death.

What's new: Engineers were able to convert the kinetic energy of the heartbeat into electricity by adding a thin, energy-converting film to existing devices. The Dartmouth innovation follows other improvements made in recent years.

What to watch: Engineers are currently testing the Dartmouth technology and expect potential market introduction in 5 years.

Maggie Teliska is a technical specialist at Caldwell Intellectual Property Law, an intellectual property law firm, and CTO of Regent Power. She is also a member of GLG, a platform connecting businesses with industry experts.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 5 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.