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Notebook Technology

Energy in motion

Clockwork modified to harvest energy from the heart (University of Bern/IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems)

Technology

Energy in motion

Future pacemakers could be powered by heartbeat

Researchers at the University Hospital of Bern, Switzerland, have adapted the 240-year-old technology behind self-winding watches for use in a pacemaker. In this case, the heart’s pumping motion does the winding.

Already tested in pigs, the miniature heart-powered device could eventually replace bulky batteries and “give the pacemaker the intrinsic ability to harvest energy continuously inside the body,” Andreas Haeberlin, a cardiologist and bioengineer at the University Hospital of Bern who collaborated on the project, told IEEE Spectrum.

Haeberlin and his colleagues took the self-winding mechanism from a wristwatch and replaced the oscillating weight with a smaller but heavier one made of platinum. They added a microgenerator from a quartz watch (to convert the mechanical energy to electrical energy) and then attached the device to a pacemaker, according to the technology magazine.

In a paper published last September, Haeberlin and his colleagues proposed including a small battery backup for reliability purposes. His and other research groups are also pursuing other methods of harvesting electrical energy from the body—with the goal of eliminating primary batteries in implanted medical devices.


 

Malloy Aeronautics

(Malloy Aeronautics)

Army hoverbike?

Australian inventor Chris Malloy’s idea for a flying motorcycle similar to the speeder bikes in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi may become a reality, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

On Jan. 10, Defense Department officials watched a demonstration of the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV. Based on Malloy’s original design, the electric-powered quadcopter prototype can carry 300 pounds. But Army researchers envision a hybrid-powered version with a payload capacity of 800 pounds able to fly up to 60 mph.

“Anywhere on the battlefield, soldiers can potentially get resupplied in less than 30 minutes,” said Tim Vong, associate chief of the Army Research Laboratory’s Protection Division.

Although the JTARV is designed to be an autonomous resupply vehicle with no pilot, engineers still affectionately refer to it as the “Hoverbike.”

—M.C.


 

Guidesense

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (Guidesense)

Sense of sight

The same radar technology used in many self-driving vehicles could soon help the blind navigate their outdoor surroundings. The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is developing a wearable, short-range radar device that senses obstacles and alerts the wearer with vibrations and voice feedback.

The device, called Guidesense, straps over the chest and uses millimeter-wave radar to detect obstacles surrounding the user, with the exception of objects such as thin branches or bushes.

“The signal passes through normal clothing,” VTT scientist Tero Kiuru said in a statement. “This means that [Guidesense] can be worn discreetly under a coat, for example.”

Finland’s National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health put Guidesense through a clinical trial involving 25 visually impaired people. Of that group, 23 felt the device helped them perceive their surroundings. Despite some concerns about distance control and the vibration-based feedback, nearly a third of the test subjects said they would be willing to start using the device in its present form.

VTT believes its technology could help many of the estimated 285 million visually impaired people worldwide. —M.C.