Medical implants, such as pacemakers, serve various functions in patients and help to improve their quality of life. But to power these devices, re-implanted devices and invasive surgery are often required, which may lead to a risk of surgical complications. In search of a more permanent solution, scientists developed a photonic device that reduces the need for re-implants.

Most electronic implants, including the pacemaker, require a constant source of energy to operate. Batteries, which provide an energy source for the implants, have a finite lifespan. Once the battery power gets exhausted, there is no other option but to perform invasive surgery to replace the battery, which poses a risk of surgical complications such as bruising, infection, and other adverse events.

The new system recharges the internal battery of devices without invasive surgery or risky penetrative procedures. Researchers developed an “active photonic power transfer” method that can generate electrical power in the body. This system consists of two parts: a skin-attachable micro-LED source patch that can generate photons that would penetrate through the tissues, and a photovoltaic device integrated into a medical implant that can capture the photons and generate electrical energy. The system provides a sustainable way of supplying the medical implant device with enough power to avoid any high-risk replacement methods.

Currently, a lack of a reliable source of power limits the functionality and performance of implant devices. If enough electrical power can be secured in the body, new types of medical implants with diverse functions and high performance can be developed.

For more information, contact Professor Jongho Lee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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This article first appeared in the January, 2021 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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