Energy Transfer Process Wireless system supplies energy to implanted devices

Redakteur: Kathrin Schäfer

In the form of microelectronic implants, such devices as sensors, drug-dispensing systems and infusion pumps are taking on more and more diagnostic and therapeutic tasks in healthcare. Researchers at Fraunhofer IKTS have developed a module that supplies them with power remotely.

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Pacemakers have been prescribing heart rate for patients for more than 50 years. In the meantime, developments in microelectronic implants have been breathtaking: the devices have become smaller and smaller and technologically more refined. The trend is toward miniaturised intelligent systems that handle both therapeutic and diagnostic functions. In the future, implantable sensors will measure blood sugar levels, blood pressure or oxygen saturation of tumorous tissue and then transmit the patient data via telemetry. Medication-dispensing systems and infusion pumps, in another example, are foreseen to release medical agents in targeted areas of the body and thus minimise the incidence of harmful side effects.

Wireless electricity transmission

All these developments comprise such components as sensors, actuators, signal processing units and control electronics, and here is the problem: they need to be supplied with energy.

A new energy-transfer process is anticipated to get around the limitations of the methods used up till now. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) have succeeded in transmitting electricity wirelessly from a portable transmitter module to a mobile generator module that functions as the receiver.

“The cylinder-shaped transfer module is so small and compact that it can be secured to belts,” says Dr. Holger Lausch, an IKTS scientist. The transmitter provides an electrical output of more than 100 mW and has a range of approximately 50 cm. The receiver therefore can be located almost anywhere on the body.

“With our portable devices, we are able to supply implants, drug-delivery systems and other medical devices with energy by remote control and in a noncontact fashion—for example, swallowable video-endoscopy capsules that move through the gastrointestinal tract and transmit images of the body’s innards to the outside,” says Lausch. The generator module can be identified by position and location at any time independently of the energy transfer. Thus, if the generator is located in a video-endoscopy capsule, it is possible to allocate the images to specified intestinal regions. If it is placed in a dispensing capsule, the medication can be released on target.

For further information:

Fraunhofer-Institut für Keramische Technologien und Systeme IKTS

Hermsdorf, Germany