Solar Energy Powers Pacemakers
The first real-life study to provide data on the potential of powering medical implants with solar cells has been done by some Swiss researchers. The notion of using solar cells placed under the skin to continuously recharge implanted electronic medical devices is a viable one. Swiss researchers have done the math and found that a 3.6 sq. cm solar cell is all that is needed to generate enough power during winter and summer to power a typical pacemaker. The study is the first to provide real-life data about the potential of using solar cells to power devices, such as pacemakers and deep brain stimulators. According to lead author Lukas Bereuter of Bern University Hospital and the University of Bern in Switzerland, wearing power-generating solar cells under the skin will save patients the discomfort of having to continuously undergo procedures to change the batteries of such life-saving devices. The findings are set out in Springer’s journal Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
Various research groups have recently put forward prototypes of small electronic solar cells that can be carried under the skin and can be used to recharge medical devices. The solar cells convert the light from the sun that penetrates the skin surface into energy. To investigate the real-life feasibility of such rechargeable energy generators, Bereuter and his colleagues developed specially designed solar measurement devices that can measure the output power being generated. The cells were only 3.6 sq cm in size, making them small enough to be implanted if needed. For the test, each of the 10 devices was covered by optical filters to simulate how properties of the skin would influence how well the sun penetrates the skin. The tiny cells were always found to generate much more than the 5–10 microwatts of power that a typical cardiac pacemaker uses. The participant with the lowest power output still obtained 12 microwatts on average.