Researchers create biodegradable power supply for implants

Chinese researchers have developed a device to power biodegradable medical implants, such as those designed to deliver drugs. This “power supply”, also biodegradable, can be charged wirelessly and thus replace the batteries for continuous power.

Research into implantable electronics is making great strides, and there are now many biocompatible and biodegradable sensors and other components . However, one of the biggest hurdles is powering these components without introducing batteries containing toxic chemicals into the body.  

Systems powered by magnetic induction already exist, but researchers at Lanzhou University, China, have successfully created a biodegradable power supply to power implanted devices. The system is flexible, which allows it to adapt to the shape of the body. Researchers successfully tested it on rats in combination with a drug delivery system. They published their results in the journal Science Advances .

Biodegradable supercapacitors

To be able to be charged, the power supply contains zinc-ion hybrid supercapacitors. It’s not as efficient as a battery, but it allows for short-term energy storage. The cathodes are made of molybdenum disulfide (MoS 2 ) nanosheets, and the anodes are made of zinc sheets . The implant is charged by magnetic induction, using a magnesium coil. Then simply place another coil on the skin at the implant site to provide it with energy.

The implant was covered with a layer of biocompatible polymer (PLGA) and wax, which temporarily protects the components. The device worked properly for 10 days once implanted in rats, and requires about two months to be fully absorbed into the body. According to the researchers, the amounts of zinc and molybdenum released are lower than the recommended daily intakes. Researchers still need to create a system to turn off the device because, for now, it continues to operate until it is completely discharged.

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