Powering medical implants

I have always admired Medtronic’s technology. This is a company that helps improve the lives of so many people with their medical research and innovations. First of all, they employ more than 86,000 people, of which, 9,600 are scientists and engineers with a goal to alleviate pain, restore health, and help to extend life with their technology.

Their biggest group is Cardiac and Vascular, but what few people know is that Medtronic designs, manufactures, and ships their own batteries for their devices. They feel that this will improve the safety, reliability, and quality of these batteries in their devices, especially residing within the human body.

The battery

Gaurav Jain is the Director of Research and Technology at the Medtronic Energy and Component Center (MECC). He says that the materials Medtronics uses to build implantable rechargeable medical device batteries are similar to those in cell phones. The caveat here is that these batteries will power Medtronic’s devices inside the human body. Remember Samsung phone battery fiasco?

There are 250,000 people walking around who have medical implants that use rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries. Due to Medtronic’s battery designs and their extensive battery test program, there has never been any confirmed battery failures in any of their devices.

(Image courtesy of Medtronic)

(Image courtesy of Medtronic)

Their medical device, the batteries are designed with a much longer life and added stability, with wider margins for safety than typical commercial batteries. They encase their batteries in laser-welded metal and their electrodes are hermetically sealed with glass.

Medtronic uses many proprietary materials for the primary (non-rechargeable) batteries for life support implantable devices. These are unique and distinct compared to the consumer batteries. Jain comments that “In terms of the total energy or power inside that battery, it is, conservatively speaking, about one-twentieth that of a cell phone.”

ASIC power

Cactus Semiconductor is another great innovator in the medical implant arena. They develop implantable medical ASICs spanning areas from pain management to epilepsy and physical disorders. Their solutions can even aid in the delivery of drugs with implants that maintain a regular schedule which helps eliminate a patient forgetting to take their medication.

(Image courtesy of Cactus Semiconductor)

(Image courtesy of Cactus Semiconductor)

Cactus Semiconductor has the following power management Integrated Circuit (PMIC) technology:

  • Wireless Battery Charger
  • Boost Converters
  • Buck Converters
  • LDOs
  • Charge Pumps
  • USB Power Management
  • WLAN DC-DC Converters
  • Power Switches
  • Slew Controlled Drivers
  • Voltage References
  • Voltage and Current Power Sensing
  • Oscillators
  • Power Management Supervisor / Controllers

These PMICs manage the power requirements of your system, while extending battery life, reducing battery size and increasing battery capacity. This leads to reducing the size of the final ASIC and overall device.

Watch for my in-depth article with technical insight and methods on EDN regarding this topic

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2 comments on “Powering medical implants

  1. markgrogan
    January 16, 2019

    I am impressed that this particular medical institution decided to take every single manufacturing process into their own hands. This is a movement that will help to ensure that the well-being of the patients at the receiving end will be duly taken care of. Though the concern is just about the batteries, but the initial motive is to put across a guarantee that no unwanted scenarios will ever have to happen to their consumer base. Taking care of their patients from the beginning right until the end really reflects the true nature of this company.

  2. EdwardThirlwall
    February 26, 2019

    There are so many different sectors in today's market that utilize technology in various ways. Their main objective is to obviously make progress in their business but at the same time, they are taking care of the society too. Those companies that contribute towards the betterment of the sick are the true heroes at the end of the day, reaching out to medical device manufacturers, hospitals, and even patients.

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