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Prolonged energy harvesting for ingestible devices


Ingestible electronics have revolutionized the standard of care for a variety of health conditions. Extending the capacity and safety of these devices, and reducing the costs of powering them, could enable broad deployment of prolonged-monitoring systems for patients. Although previous biocompatible power-harvesting systems for in vivo use have demonstrated short (minute-long) bursts of power from the stomach, little is known about the potential for powering electronics in the longer term and throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Here, we report the design and operation of an energy-harvesting galvanic cell for continuous in vivo temperature sensing and wireless communication. The device delivered an average power of 0.23 μW mm−2 of electrode area for an average of 6.1 days of temperature measurements in the gastrointestinal tract of pigs. This power-harvesting cell could provide power to the next generation of ingestible electronic devices for prolonged periods of time inside the gastrointestinal tract.

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Figure 1: Initial in vivo characterization and anode comparison.
Figure 2: Electrical characterization of the gastric battery in a porcine model.


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We thank J. Haupt, M. Jamiel and A. Hayward for help with the in vivo porcine work. We also thank A. Paidimarri for helpful discussions. A.P.C. was funded by Texas Instruments, the Semiconductor Research Corporation’s Center of Excellence for Energy Efficient Electronics, and the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Commission. R.L. was funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, EB-000244; a Max Planck Research Award, Ltr Dtd. 2/11/08; and the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung Foundation. G.T. was funded in part by the Division of Gastroenterology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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P.N., D.E-D., D.G., Y.L.K., N.R., R.L., A.P.C. and G.T. conceived and designed the research. P.N., D.E-D., S.M., Y.L.K. and N.R. constructed the prototypes for testing. P.N., D.E-D., D.G. and Y.L.K. conducted the in vitro characterization. P.N. wrote the software for the capsules and offline processing of the packets. P.N., D.E-D., D.G., Y.L.K., C.C., L.B. and G.T. performed the in vivo pig experiments. P.N., D.E-D., D.G., Y.L.K., N.R., R.L., A.P.C. and G.T. analysed the data and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Robert Langer, Anantha P. Chandrakasan or Giovanni Traverso.

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Competing interests

The authors declare that provisional patent application no. 62/328,084, covering a portion of this work, was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on 27 April 2016.

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Nadeau, P., El-Damak, D., Glettig, D. et al. Prolonged energy harvesting for ingestible devices. Nat Biomed Eng 1, 0022 (2017).

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