As medical devices become smaller, more capable and easier to implant, there’s a parallel need to keep up with ways to power them. Wireless power transmission may be a holy grail for this, but in many ways the technology is maturing rapidly and already being used in a myriad of applications. We spoke with Sanjay Gupta, Vice President of Product Management at WiTricity, one of the leading companies in the field of wireless charging, about how this technology can revolutionize existing therapies and bring forth new ones.
Medgadget: Medical therapies are becoming more and more dependent on implantable electronic devices. Power has always been a limitation and the idea of wireless charging is not new. What are the latest technological developments that are making wireless charging more practical?
Sanjay Gupta, WiTricity: WiTricity’s magnetic resonance technology adds practicality to wireless charging by allowing devices to charge over a distance without precise alignment between the transmitter and receiver. With the ability to charge during use, medical devices are now able to be smaller in size, allowing them to conform to the shape of the medical device or the body, thus making them applicable for a new class of implantable medical devices.
Because of the smaller size and ability to conform to non-traditional shapes, this new class of devices can be enabled for daily use and will have the ability to address more ailments. (For example – implantable blood glucose sensor or neurostimulator).
WiTricity’s magnetic resonance technology is also able to safely charge through most materials, including skin, making it conducive to medical devices and implantable applications. As a result, patients have a reduced risk of infection, as there no need to plug in a device through the skin.
Medgadget: How does wireless power transmission work and what are its limitations?
Gupta: Highly resonant wireless power transfer is accomplished by magnetic resonance, which uses oscillating magnetic fields to exchange energy. An energy source (like a battery or electricity from the power grid) provides power to an electronic circuit which turns that power into an oscillating magnetic field, while a similar device couples to this magnetic field and converts it back into electrical energy.
While devices using this technology can charge over a distance, there are some limitations to how far apart they can be placed.
Medgadget: What are the general contraindications for wireless power in medical applications?
Gupta: There are no contraindications that we are aware of. It is important to emphasize that there are human safety requirements that must be met within medical sector, and WiTricity products are not yet authorized for use as a component in a surgical implant into the body, in a system intended to support or sustain life, or for any other application in which failure of the product could create a situation where personal injury or death may occur.
Medgadget: Where do you see this technology finding new applications in medicine?
Gupta: We believe that wireless energy transfer is a game changer for medicine and this will drive major innovation in the field due to the vast opportunities afforded by being able to unplug. People will be able to live active lifestyles, as devices will have the ability to “power snack” and patients will not need to stay in close proximity to a stationary power source at all times.
Additionally, electrical therapy is gaining acceptance in the medical world to augment chemical therapies. Wireless transfer will expand the use of electrical devices to deliver therapy.
Medgadget: Can you give us some examples of WiTricity’s technology being used in the healthcare field?
Gupta: Witricity has made major strides in the healthcare field, collaborating with providers such as Greatbatch and Thoratec to incorporate wireless charging technology into those company’s products.
WiTricity’s partnership with Greatbatch, a global developer and manufacturer of medical devices and components, began in 2012. As a result of this partnership, Greatbatch leveraged WiTricity’s technology to be used in the development of a wide range of medical and surgical devices featuring innovative wireless power systems solutions.
Greatbatch and WiTricity recently extended their partnership, with Greatbatch licensing WiTricity’s technology for use in implantable devices and interventional applications that allow doctors and hospitals to “untether” when treating patients.
WiTricity also works with Thoratec, a world leader in device-based mechanical circulatory support therapies to save, support and restore failing hearts, to bring wireless charging to the field of mechanical circulatory support. With this partnership, Thoratec and WiTricity are working together to provide a better and more seamless experience for users of Thoratec’s heart pump systems, allowing users to be more mobile.
Medgadget: What are your expectations for the future of wireless power transmission?
Gupta: Wireless charging will have tremendous impact on health care by enabling more seamless, efficient patient experiences. Patients with implantable devices will be afforded increased freedom and mobility, while also experiencing greater comfort through more lightweight devices.
Additionally, patients will experience a lower risk of infection without the need for a way to charge internal devices through a puncture in the skin. This reduced risk will also transfer to hospitals and other healthcare facilities, where a lack of cumbersome wires will reduce risk of germs being carried from one room to another.
WiTricity’s technology expands what is possible. As the use of electrical devices to deliver chemical or electrical therapy to patients increases, this technology will play a major role in enhancing the quality of life of patients.
Link: WiTricity homepage…