The Solar Plate Under the Skin May Be the Future ‘Battery’ of a Pacemaker

The device of only four centimeters can supply power to electronic implants.

Using solar cells to carry electronic implants into patients is an old desire for medicine. Fortunately, researchers from the University of Bern, Switzerland, released a study on Tuesday that points to a way to develop a “battery” capable of achieving this goal.

The scientists tested a small 3-inch square board to simulate a solar cell implant beneath the skin and found that it alone was able to produce enough energy to carry a standard pacemaker. As a result, researchers hope patients who need electronic implants will no longer have to go through surgical procedures to replace their devices’ batteries.

The research, which was published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering, is the first to achieve good results in the area. Scientists have been able to create devices that can measure the amount of energy generated by small solar cells – an essential technology to know the actual yield of subcutaneous plaques.

In all, ten of these cells were coated with optical filters to simulate the properties of human skin and how they influence the passage of light. Then, each of the plaques was placed on the arm for each of ten volunteers, who were to wear them for a week during the summer, fall, and winter.

Solar cells work by converting sunlight that penetrates the skin into electrical energy. Regardless of the season, the researchers realized that even the worst performing board still provided an average amount of 12 microwatts, more than enough to power a device as a standard pacemaker.

By dispensing with the use of conventional batteries, the board also offers the advantage of considerably reducing the size of the implants. As a result, researchers also hope in the future to use this technology for other applications in humans – this alternative form of energy could be used, for example, in biochips, which have become increasingly common.

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