Researchers at MIT have created a new way to power and communicate with devices that are implanted deep within the human body. Such devices could be used for drug delivery, monitoring internal conditions within the body, or treating disease by treating the brain with electricity or light. The implants are powered by radio frequency waves that are safely passed through human tissues.
Researchers have tested the new delivery method in animals and found that radio waves can power devices that are located as deeply as 10cm inside tissue. The power generation can penetrate that deep and power the implants from one meter away. With no internal power from a battery required, the devices are very small.
The prototype used in testing is about the size of a grain of rice. The team believes that the implant could be made even smaller in the future. The same method of power and communication could be used for ingested sensors as well. Those with conditions requiring deep brain stimulation could see big benefits from this tech.
Typically, people with Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy use deep brain stimulation devices that are implanted under the skin to control them. With the new tech, the implants could be wireless. Pacemakers could also benefit from this tech, currently, much of the size of the pacemaker is the battery.
Much smaller, battery-free pacemakers could last much longer, be smaller, and get power from outside the body. A new system called “In Vivo Networking” was created by the team that uses an array of antennas emitting radio waves at slightly different frequencies. Power is transmitted over a wide area, so an exact location of the sensor isn’t required.