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Implantable medical devices are currently used to replace deficient vital organs (heart, kidneys, pancreas, etc.). Research is focused on optimizing the energy autonomy of these devices because current lithium batteries must be changed or recharged frequently. To this end, researchers at IRIG [collaboration] have developed an implantable fuel cell using glucose and oxygen. This device has just passed conclusive tests on animals.
Implantable medical devices benefit from the improved autonomy of cells and batteries. However, their autonomy remains unsatisfactory for patient comfort. For instance, the battery of an artificial heart must be recharged every 24 hours! An ideal solution would be for the medical device to use the same energy source as the organ it replaces, i.e. glucose and blood oxygen. Thus, the conversion of chemical energy into electricity to power the medical device can be achieved through a fuel cell. However the latter was not originally designed to be implanted in a living organism, since glucose and oxygen are not the most suitable reagents for its operation. Therefore, the following two locks must be taken into account: i. In order to be supplied with glucose and oxygen, the electrodes of the battery are necessarily in contact with the body; they must therefore be fully biocompatible to avoid any inflammatory reaction. ii. As each electrode is in contact with the biological medium, including the two reactants, glucose and oxygen, it is necessary that the catalysts used for the conversion of chemical energy into electricity are highly selective. To date, only enzymes, which are not very stable, have the necessary selectivity to design implantable fuel cells.
Polarization curve of the fuel cell after explantation (blue: surface current - left axis, orange: surface power - right axis).
(1) Menassol G, Dubois L, Nadolska M, Vadgama P, Martin DK and Zebda AA biocompatible iron doped graphene based cathode for an implantable glucose biofuel cell.Electrochimica Acta 2023
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.