Chinese researchers have developed a device to power biodegradable medical implants, such as those designed to deliver drugs. This “power supply”, also biodegradable, can be charged wirelessly and thus replace batteries for continuous power.

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Research into implantable electronics is making great progress, and there are now many biocompatible and biodegradable sensors and other components. However, one of the biggest hurdles is providing power to these components without putting batteries containing toxic chemicals into the body.

Systems powered by magnetic induction already exist, but researchers at Lanzhou University in China have successfully created a biodegradable power supply to power implanted devices. The system is flexible, allowing it to adapt to the shape of the body. The researchers successfully tested it on rats in conjunction with the drug delivery system. They published their results in the journal science advancement,

Biodegradable Supercapacitor

To be able to charge, the power supply includes zinc-ion hybrid supercapacitors. It is not as efficient as batteries, but it allows short-term energy storage. Cathodes are made of molybdenum disulfide (MoS) nanosheets2), and zinc foil anode. The implant is charged by magnetic induction using a magnesium coil. Then place another coil on the skin at the implant site to provide it with energy.

The implant was covered with a layer of biocompatible polymer (PLGA) and wax, which temporarily protected the components. The device continued to work properly for 10 days after being implanted in mice, and required about two months to be completely absorbed into the body. According to researchers, the amounts of zinc and molybdenum released are less than the recommended daily intake. The researchers still need to create a system to turn off the device because, right now, it will continue to operate until it is completely discharged.

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