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Body Batteries

March 25, 2010

A new coating for rubber surfaces may make it possible for our bodies to power electric gadgets.


Bodily batteries. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Pacemakers and other implantable devices require surgery to change the batteries. But what if you could power them by breathing? Princeton University nanotechnology engineer Michael McAlpine and his colleagues have taken a big step toward that goal. They worked with PZT, a fine crystal that converts mechanical energy into electricity, but can’t be directly implanted because of its lead content.

MICHAEL McALPINE (Princeton University):
We found a way to print PZT ribbons onto a biocompatible silicone, and also laminate some silicone on top of that too, so now all your body would see is this silicone, which is already used for cosmetic implants.

Eventually, the plan is to stick a piece of this material on a lung, and connect it to the pacemaker. Potential non-medical applications include shoes that power your gadgets as you walk. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.