This new nanotechnology can harvest healthy electric currents from body movements.
A team led by Tel Aviv University researchers have developed a new nanotechnology that can enable the generation of electric currents and voltage within the human body through the activation of various organs (mechanical force).
According to the research, the development involves a new and very strong biological material, similar to collagen, which is non-toxic and causes no harm to the body’s tissues. This new nanotechnology, they believe, has vast potential for applications in medical sciences. Using the body’s natural movements this technology can harvest clean energy to operate devices implanted in the body such as pacemakers without the use of batteries or other external sources of energy. The research was published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.
Prof. Gazit, who is also Founding Director of the Blavatnik Center for Drug Discovery, explains: “Collagen is the most prevalent protein in the human body, constituting about 30% of all of the proteins in our body. It is a biological material with a helical structure and a variety of important physical properties, such as mechanical strength and flexibility, which are useful in many applications.”
“In the present study, we sought to examine whether the new material we developed bears another feature that characterizes collagen—piezoelectricity. Piezoelectricity is the ability of a material to generate electric currents and voltage as a result of the application of mechanical force, or vice versa, to create a mechanical force as the result of exposure to an electric field.” Said Prof.Gazit.
In the study, nanometric structures of the material were created and mechanical pressure was applied using nanotechnology tools. Like any other piezoelectric material, this newly developed material also produced electric currents and voltage as a result of the pressure. Moreover, in comparison to piezoelectric materials commonly found in today’s market, the tiny structures of only hundreds of nanometers demonstrated one of the highest levels of piezoelectric ability.
According to the researchers, the discovery of piezoelectricity of this magnitude in a nanometric material is highly significant. “Most of the piezoelectric materials that we know of today are toxic lead-based materials, or polymers, meaning they are not environmentally and human body-friendly. Our new material, however, is completely biological, and therefore suitable for uses within the body.” Said Prof. Gazit.
This new technology can replace batteries that supply energy to implanted devices through healthy electric currents produced by body movements like jaw movements, bowel movements or even heartbeats. “These materials may also replace lead-containing piezoelectric materials that are currently in widespread use, but that raise concerns about the leakage of toxic metal into the environment,” he added.