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“A Wireless Heart”

A post on the Babbage science and technology blog at The Economist looks at work by UW CSE/EE professor Joshua Smith et al. on wireless power for left ventricular assist devices (LVAD).  LVAD, implanted in failing human hearts, is a life-saving technology that suffers from problems with high patient infection rates and maintenance overhead due to the need for external power.  Smith’s new power system will be announced formally at the American Association for Thoracic Surgery annual meeting in May.

“The Free-Range Resonant Electrical Energy Delivery System, or FREE-D, as Smith calls it, is powered by induction. Specifically, it exploits a phenomenon called resonant coupling, in which metal coils that resonate at the same electrical frequency can exchange energy particularly efficiently. The process transfers the power using a tuned magnetic field, which is considered less hazardous to human health than the radio waves (or even lasers) that other wireless power systems rely on.  Smith’s version has a transmitter coil 26cm in diameter, which that can beam up to 15 watts of power to a receiver coil that is just 4.3cm across. The transmitter coil can thus be worn in a vest that also holds a battery pack while the receiver tucks nicely into the patient’s chest.”

Smith and his team are also looking at implanting the transmitter in beds and walls to eliminate the need for the patient to wear a vest.

Read the full post – complete with Dick Cheney references – here.