Researchers in Switzerland have conducted the first real-life study to determine the viability of using subcutaneously implanted solar cells to power medical implants—in this case, a pacemaker.
The study showed that a 3.6-square-centimeter solar cell can generate adequate power to run a typical pacemaker. Another potential medical implant to be powered using such subcutaneously implanted solar cells could be a deep-brain stimulator.
“Considering the mean power over all seasons, every study participant obtained enough power to completely power a cardiac pacemaker,” reports lead author and PhD candidate Lukas Bereuter from the ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research at the University of Bern, confirming the findings.
The researcher says the devices used in this study are commercially available yet highly efficient standard solar cells—a factor that allows for the application of the study’s results to other solar powered applications.
“They are not intended for implantation, yet, which is why we built these external measurement devices,” Bereuter notes. “We covered the solar cells with optical filters that act like skin to simulate a subcutaneously implanted solar cell.”
Potential impact on the future of solar-powered medical devices
Wearing subcutaneously implanted solar cells could one day spare patients from having to undergo frequent procedures to change the batteries of their implanted medical devices. “The results of this study have shown that subcutaneously implanted solar cells could be a promising alternative to primary batteries,” Bereuter says, adding that the study’s results can be used to estimate the power generated by subcutaneous solar cells in everyday life.
Translating the findings to other mobile solar-powered applications
“Basically, the results of this study can be scaled according to the used solar cell area and efficiency as well as skin thickness — or when the solar cells are not covered at all — to estimate the generated power in real life for other mobile solar-powered applications,” Bereuter confirms.
The study, titled “Harvesting by Subcutaneous Solar Cells: A Long-Term Study on Achievable Energy Output," is published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering Energy.
Written by Sandra Henderson, Research Editor, Solar Novus Today