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May 19, 2011

The turbine of BLOOD

photo of a pacemaker about to be implanted

While it's true that heart pacemakers have saved or improved millions of lives (not to mention qualifying millions of people for cyborg status) they do have downsides. High among them is the fact that pacemaker batteries eventually run down, requiring a surgical procedure to remove the old pacemaker and replace it with a fully charged one.

But what if the body itself could provide the electrical power the pacemaker needs? That's the novel approach being taken by a team at the University of Bern in Switzerland. They're developing a mini electric turbine that can be embedded in a major artery. As blood rushes past it turns the turbine generating more than enough electrical energy to keep the pacemaker fully charged. (In case you want the work details, a beating human produces between 1 and 1.5 watts of hydraulic power. The turbine only needs about a milliwatt to operate. It'll generate 800 micro-watts of electricity, and the pacemaker only uses about 10 micro-watts. (Which I guess leaves 790 micro-watts for our Matrix machine overlords)).

There are still details to be worked out (the biggest being making sure that clots don't form in the turbine) but it's a cool idea. Hell, I'd be up for a turbine in my thoracic artery just for the steam-punk cred of it. Details about the turbine here.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at May 19, 2011 11:58 AM