Next-generation implants may utilize dual-energy harvesting technology for power.

Cutting-edge implants might soon be fueled by innovative dual-energy harvesting technology, offering promising advancements in the realm of implantable biomedical devices. Researchers at Penn State have developed a groundbreaking wireless charging device poised to revolutionize the power supply for next-generation implants, addressing current limitations while ensuring safety for the human body.

Published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the scientists unveil a device capable of harnessing energy from both magnetic fields and ultrasound sources concurrently, efficiently converting this energy into electricity to sustain implants. This pioneering device marks the first successful attempt to harness dual-energy sources simultaneously with high efficiency, operating within safe limits for human tissue.

Lead author Sumanta Kumar Karan, a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State, explains, “Now we can combine two modalities in a single receiver, which can exceed any of the individual modalities. We can increase the power by a factor of four, which is really significant.”

This innovative technology holds promise for battery-free bioelectronic devices, enabling miniaturization to millimeter-scale dimensions for easy implantation and facilitating distributed networks of sensors and actuators throughout the body. By eliminating the need for bulky batteries and cables, the lifespan of such devices could be extended, minimizing the risks associated with invasive surgeries for battery replacement.

Dr. Bed Poudel, research professor at Penn State and co-author of the study, emphasizes the transformative potential of this technology: “Our device may unlock next-generation biomedical applications because it can generate 300% higher power than the current state-of-the-art devices. By combining two energy sources in a single generator, power generated from a given volume of the device can be significantly improved, unlocking many applications that were not possible before.”

Moreover, this advancement addresses the challenges posed by conventional wireless charging technologies, particularly as implants continue to shrink in size. While traditional wireless charging methods may become less efficient with smaller implants, the dual-energy harvesting approach offers a promising solution, utilizing lower frequency magnetic fields and ultrasound energy to wirelessly power or charge implants without risking harm to the body.

Beyond biomedical applications, the technology holds implications for powering wireless sensor networks in smart buildings, enabling remote monitoring and adjustment of energy and operational patterns. This interdisciplinary research effort, supported by the National Science Foundation and additional funding from DARPA MATRIX and the Army RIF program, showcases the potential of innovative dual-energy harvesting technology to drive advancements in healthcare and beyond.