Pacemakers can be adapted so they can be charged using energy from heartbeats.

Currently: About one million people a year worldwide have a pacemaker implanted to help keep their heart beating at a normal rhythm. However, they have limited battery life, so people who have them have to undergo surgery to replace the batteries on a five-to-ten-year basis.

Beating in time: A small device can modify pacemakers so that they use kinetic energy from the heart’s beating, converting it into electricity to keep the batteries charged. The researchers added a thin piece of polymer to existing pacemakers, which converts motion into electricity, they explain in Advanced Materials Technologies.

Next steps: The first round of animal studies has just been completed. The team hopes the pacemakers could be available for humans within the next five years.

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