Implantable medical devices have long relied on batteries to function properly, from pacemakers that keep the heart beating to neurostimulators that help manage pain. However, the issue of battery life and the need for invasive surgeries to replace them has been a significant challenge in the field. Addressing these concerns, researchers in China have developed a groundbreaking implantable battery that operates using oxygen within the body.

The study, recently published in the journal Chem, showcases a novel design of an implantable battery that has demonstrated stable power delivery and compatibility with biological systems in rats. Corresponding author Xizheng Liu, an expert in energy materials and devices at Tianjin University of Technology, highlights the significance of utilizing the continuous supply of oxygen within the body to overcome the limitations of traditional batteries based on finite materials.

To create a safe and efficient battery, the researchers utilized electrodes made of a sodium-based alloy and nanoporous gold, a material known for its compatibility with living organisms. These electrodes catalyze chemical reactions with oxygen in the body to generate electricity. Moreover, the battery was encapsulated in a soft and flexible porous polymer film for protection. Upon implantation under the skin of rats, the battery exhibited stable electrical output and a maximum power density of 2.6 µW/cm2 after two weeks.

In addition to electrical performance, the study evaluated inflammatory responses, metabolic changes, and tissue regeneration around the implanted battery. Remarkably, no signs of inflammation were observed, and byproducts of the battery’s reactions were easily metabolized by the body without impacting the kidneys and liver. Furthermore, the rats demonstrated rapid healing, with complete regrowth of hair and regeneration of blood vessels around the battery site.

Looking ahead, the research team aims to enhance the battery’s energy delivery by exploring more efficient electrode materials and optimizing its structure. They also emphasize the scalability of production and the importance of cost-effective materials to reduce the overall price. Beyond powering medical devices, the battery’s unique capabilities could potentially be leveraged in cancer treatment by starving tumor cells of oxygen or converting energy into heat to destroy them.

The development of an implantable battery powered by oxygen represents a significant advancement in medical technology. By harnessing the body’s natural resources, this innovative approach not only addresses the limitations of traditional batteries but also opens up new possibilities for medical interventions and therapies. With further research and refinement, this technology has the potential to revolutionize the field of implantable medical devices and improve patient outcomes.

Chemistry

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