New Body-Safe Battery Implants Are Sustained by Body Oxygen

New Body-Safe Battery Implants Are Sustained by Body Oxygen

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Researchers developed a new type of battery that runs on oxygen in the body and never runs out of power, which can be implanted into the body for multiple purposes.

Recent advancements in medical technology saw medically implanted devices as increasingly common, whether it’s pacemakers to help keep the heart rate from falling or neurostimulators to help dampen chronic pain. The issue with such devices is that they require an external energy source, like a battery, which can serve a single patient for years but eventually runs out of power and requires the replacement of the entire implant (meaning another invasive surgery for the patient).

Researchers have been looking for ways to wirelessly recharge these batteries or power them with different body motions, but a group of researchers from the Tianjin University of Technology in China went a step further and took inspiration from how life sustains itself using oxygen.

“When you think about it, oxygen is the source of our life,” said Xizheng Liu, a professor of energy materials and devices, “If we can leverage the continuous supply of oxygen in the body, battery life won’t be limited by the finite materials within conventional batteries.”

According to Interesting Engineering, the battery has electrodes made from a sodium-based alloy (sodium is an essential element in the human body) and nanoporous gold (known to be a good conductor and compatible with living systems). The electrodes can then react to oxygen in the body and generate a voltage.

The researchers then tested these batteries on rats, and while they did not manage to generate enough electricity to power an implant, this is a valuable proof-of-concept that researchers can develop further. They were also interested in checking how the body would react to the implanted battery, and have found no inflammatory reactions or changes in the rats’ metabolic functions.

Liu also said in a press release that this battery could help in the fight against cancerous tumors: “Because tumor cells are sensitive to oxygen levels, implanting this oxygen-consuming battery around it may help starve cancers. It’s also possible to convert the battery energy to heat to kill cancer cells.”

When it comes to future research, the team wants to explore more materials for the electrode that can help optimize the battery design and make it more cost-effective to mass produce.