Researchers at the UW have unveiled a prototype that harnesses the energy generated by a heartbeat to recharge the battery of a leadless pacemaker. The research team conducted a proof-of-principle study to explore the potential of piezoelectric materials in extending pacemaker battery life. This significant research was led by Babak Nazer, MD, associate professor of medicine, and included three UW Master’s of Applied Bioengineering (MAB) 2023 graduates – Abigail Gilstrap, MS, Jedi Biswas-Diener, MS and Kevin Tang, MS – who collaborated with Mohammad Malakooti, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Piezoelectric materials, which generate an electric charge in response to applied mechanical stress, were used in the development of the prototype. The study, presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, revealed that the prototypes could generate approximately 10% of the electricity required to power a leadless pacemaker by harvesting the natural pressure oscillations of the right ventricle chamber of the heart (in which the pacemaker resides) into voltage.

The application of piezoelectric technology has significantly evolved since it was discovered in 1880, finding its way into various devices such as cellphones, ultrasonic transducers, printers and more. The researchers aimed to leverage this technology to address the challenge of pacemaker battery life. While the prototypes currently provide a fraction of the required power, they represent a promising step toward a more sustainable and self-sufficient energy source for leadless pacemakers that can derive energy from the very heartbeat they regulate. Malakooti and Nazer are building upon their preliminary data with a second-generation device with involvement from a new class of MAB students.

The research has received quite a bit of media attention. More information about the team’s work can be found in the following articles:

Prototype pacemaker turns heartbeat energy into battery power

Leadless Pacemaker Prototype Uses Heart’s Energy to Partly Power Device

Experimental Pacemaker Can Recharge Its Own Battery