New Wireless Charging Development Could Bring us Closer to Smartphones in Our Bodies

May 20, 2014 - Written By Ray Greer

Technology never stops evolving and growing into things straight from the imagination and only seen in movies. One such example would be the cell phone-not even a smart one. Seen in movies as communicators, now everyone has one. Straight from screens in theaters and our living rooms, we see new technology-actually an old one in a new location. We are getting closer to technology that will allow for our mobile devices to be implanted into our bodies. Modern medicine is taking the lead in this area with wireless charging for implanted devices.

It is not uncommon to hear about someone who has a pacemaker implanted into their body. Problem is, pacemakers are electronic devices that need power. Though they run on powerful batteries, those batteries will always run out of juice, which requires another surgery to replace it. There is a rechargeable option to these implanted devices, though they require a large coil that limits their use. To tackle this problem, a researcher at Stanford University has taken some technology that we are familiar with, and adapted it to this situation-wireless charging of electronic medical implants.

Stanford assistant professor of electrical engineering Ada Poon has created what she hopes will be the future of medical implants. The first device Poon and her research team created is a pacemaker the size of a grain of rice. The size is very important in order to be able to get the implant deep enough into the body. This is a feat in itself, but Poon and her team have also added the ability to charge this pacemaker by simply holding a power source above it the size of a credit card. Poon says, “We need to make these devices as small as possible to more easily implant them deep in the body and create new ways to treat illness and alleviate pain.” Researchers have said that this has opened the doors for many possibilities.

Some future things this development can lead to are sensors that are deep beneath our skin, and have many different functions. Some of those functions could be as small as monitoring our vital functions, all the way up to drug delivery placed right at the target area. Though we may have quite sometime before we see commercial use of the technology, this development still brings us closer to the days only seen on the movie screen. The possibilities are endless like displays directly on our eyeballs, smartphone chips implanted in our brains, and displays on our forearms. All made possible by wireless charging.

Wireless charging has always had one major disadvantage-proximity. Devices taking advantage of wireless charging capabilities need to be placed directly on a charging pad in order to work properly. When used to charge devices beneath our skin, this could pose an issue. Poon has solved that issue, in fact she has used near field waves to her advantage. Poon and her research team developed a form of near field waves that instead of harm our skin, uses our skin to propagate. Making the wireless chargeable to get to the deeply implanted devices all without harming us-at least that’s the plan.

So far, the technology has been tested on a pig and a rabbit in preparation to be tested on humans. Once the device passes through the testing phase, it will surely be released on a minimal basis to medical patients first. Then after years of testing and safety trials, the technology could be released for commercial use. Charging a device implanted in the body has been one of the biggest obstacles, and that may soon no longer be the case. William Newsome, Director of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute said, “The Poon lab has solved a significant piece of the puzzle for safely powering implantable microdevices, paving the way for new innovation in this field.”

If ever released for commercial use, what is the first device you would hope to see implanted into our body? Let us know down in the comments section.