Don’t worry, the Swiss have not created some freakish power system that is powered by the blood of the dead or something equally morbid, but instead they’ve built an innovative device that could save lives. The invention is designed to work like a pacemaker, but instead of being battery-powered it powers itself from blood flowing in one’s arteries. The inventors say that the mini turbines can produce 800 microwatts of energy, which is far greater than the ten microwatts used by a pacemaker.

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Developed by mechanical engineer Alois Pfenniger with colleagues at the University of Bern and the Bern University of Applied Sciences, the generators would be inserted into veins like minature hydro-electric turbines. In theory, the blood turbine would produce energy as long as your heart was beating. As a result, it is hoped that they will eventually be able to replace battery-powered pacemakers, which have a limited life span and require battery replacement.

“The heart produces around 1 or 1.5 watts of hydraulic power, and we want to take maybe one milliwatt,” Pfenniger explained at the Microtechnologies in Medicine and Biology conference in Lucerne, Switzerland. “A pacemaker only needs around 10 microwatts.”

While this sounds like a wonderful invention, there are a couple of drawbacks – firstly the device has to be placed in the thoracic artery, an extra blood vessel often removed in heart surgery, and secondly they can potentially cause life-threatening blood clots.

While the team is working out these issues, expect them to hamper full-scale production until solutions can be found.

+ Microtechnologies in Medicine and Biology conference

via IEEE Spectrum

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