Stanford Researchers Test World's Smallest Pacemaker

The bulky pacemakers of the present could be replaced by tiny mechanisms as small as a grain of rice. The secret to shrinking the devices is in how to power them wirelessly.

What's the Latest?

Imagine a grain of rice that could keep your heart's rhythms in check. A team of researchers at Stanford (and their lab rabbit) don't have to imagine. The team of engineers, led by Professor Ada Poon, have been working on the device for several years. The major highlight of the world's smallest pacemaker is the skin-permeating wireless energy source that powers the small device.

Lecia Bushak of Newsweek profiled the pacemaker and described how Professor Poon's team developed its revolutionary wireless power system:

Researchers needed two types of electromagnetic waves—far-field and near-field—to penetrate deep into the body. Radio towers emit far-field waves, which can travel over long distances, while near-field waves travel over shorter distances and are used in hearing aids. But neither one is completely safe or effective in biological tissue: Far-field waves are reflected off or absorbed by skin, while near-field waves can’t travel very far inside the body. Poon’s team found a “sweet spot” by combining the two wave types to produce “mid-field” waves. The technique uses just about the same power as a cellphone but at levels well below the dangerous exposure minimum for humans.

What's the Big Idea?

A typical pacemaker weighs about an ounce and its installation comes with the risk of infection and other health complications. Simply put, having something the size of a kiwi fruit installed in your chest isn't the most natural thing for your body to cope with. The future of pacemakers was always going to be in making them smaller.

The reason pacemakers are so big in the first place is because their batteries tend to be bulky. That's why safe and dependable wireless power is so important to the advancement of smaller devices. Wireless power also negates the necessity of having to undergo further surgeries to replace depleted batteries. According to Bushak, human testing of the device should begin in the coming in the year, though the technology still has several more to go before being made more widely available.

Read the abstract on the new technology here.

Keep Reading at Newsweek

Photo credit: Fodor90 / Shutterstock

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less