A Stanford researcher has developed a method for wirelessly charging deeply-implanted micro-electronics in the body. The research could lead to increased use of implants, allowing physicians to treat diseases with electronics rather than drugs.The method is called mid-field wireless transfer, and allows for small implants that can be deeply embedded in the body or brain.
“We need to make these devices as small as possible to more easily implant them deep in the body and create new ways to treat illness and alleviate pain,” said Assistant Professor Ada Poon.
Poon’s team built an electronic device smaller than a grain of rice that acts as a pacemaker. It can be powered or recharged wirelessly by holding a power source about the size of a credit card above the device, outside the body.
Wireless charging has been around for some time for smartphones and some medical gadgets embedded just below the skin, taking advantage of a type of electromagnetic wave known as near-field waves. However, near-field waves don’t travel far. Poon and her team’s new power source emits a particular type of near-field wave. When it hits the skin, the waves actually propagate, rather than being absorbed or reflected away.
Poon believes this discovery will spawn a new generation of programmable microimplants – sensors to monitor vital functions deep inside the body; electrostimulators to change neural signals in the brain; and drug delivery systems to apply medicines directly to affected areas.