It can be a hassle when your phone’s battery runs out of juice and you have to hunt down a power outlet to recharge, but a flat battery is an even bigger hassle in implanted electronic medical devices, such as pacemakers. It often means invasive surgery to replace the battery or the entire unit, but now a new study has found that the use of solar cells implanted under the skin to power medical implants is a feasible approach.
The potential advantages of powering medical implants using solar energy to avoid the problems of replacing or recharging batteries has seen various research groups develop small solar cell prototypes that could be implanted under the skin and harness the energy of the light that penetrates the skin’s surface to keep medical implants powered up.
To examine the feasibility of such technology, a team led by Lukas Bereuter of Bern University Hospital and the University of Bern in Switzerland developed 10 solar measurement devices that could be worn on the arm. The devices featured solar cells measuring 3.6 cm2 (0.5 in2) in size, which is small enough for implantation, and were able to measure the output power the cells generated. Optical filters also covered the cells to simulate the properties of the skin and its effect on the incoming light.