Researchers at Penn State have unveiled a groundbreaking wireless charging device with the potential to significantly enhance the powering capability of next-generation implantable biomedical devices. The device, outlined in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, uniquely harvests energy from both magnetic fields and ultrasound sources simultaneously, demonstrating high efficiency within the safety limits for human tissue.

This innovative technology marks a crucial advancement for implantable devices such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and neurostimulators. Unlike conventional devices that rely on batteries or wired charging, the new wireless charging device opens avenues for miniaturized, millimeter-sized bioelectronic devices that can be easily implanted. The researchers anticipate distributed networks of sensors and actuators, capable of measuring and manipulating physiological activity throughout the body with minimal risks and interference in daily activities.

Bed Poudel, a research professor at Penn State and co-author of the study, highlighted the device’s potential to generate 300% higher power than current state-of-the-art devices. By combining magnetic field and ultrasound energy sources in a single generator, the device becomes a powerful tool for unlocking biomedical applications previously deemed unattainable.

Traditional implants face challenges like limited battery lifespan and the need for replacements through surgery, posing potential medical complications. The wireless charging device, operating within safety limits, provides a solution by extending the lifespan of battery-free bioelectronic devices through wireless power transmission.

Conventional wireless charging technologies face limitations as implants shrink in size, reducing efficiency. Mehdi Kiani, associate professor of electrical engineering at Penn State, emphasized the importance of avoiding potential harm from high-frequency electromagnetic waves. The new device overcomes this challenge by combining two modalities – magnetic field and ultrasound energy – in a single receiver, increasing power by a significant factor.

Sumanta Kumar Karan, lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State, explained the two-step process for converting magnetic field energy to electricity, involving magnetostrictive and piezoelectric layers. The combination allows the device to convert both magnetic field and ultrasound energy into electric current simultaneously.

The implications extend beyond biomedical applications, with potential applications in powering wireless sensor networks for smart buildings. These networks, monitoring energy and operational patterns, can benefit from the efficient and safe energy conversion demonstrated by the innovative wireless charging device.

By Impact Lab