Thursday, June 7, 2007

Do you feeeel the POWAH?

Researchers at MIT do. Many sites are reporting on a recent MIT press release on work involving wireless power via magnetically coupled resonators. WiTricity - that's kinda snappy - works, as of now, at up to 2 meters (for those of us the US, that's about 400 miles ;) ) and works on the principle of resonant frequency. The transmitter is coupled with a receiver with the same resonant frequency as that give off, some type of voodoo happens, and that translates into power on the receiver end. Read the article for more specifics, but it is worth noting that this method interacts with all material between the transmitter and receiver, but only weakly on matter with a different resonance frequency.

I bring this up because providing power to implanted BCI systems is a major task that really has yet to share in the advances made in other areas of technological development. Right now there are three methods: External power (e.g.-BrainGate), induction (e.g.-Neurotrophic Electrode), and battery recharged via induction or replacement (e.g.-Medtronics). So what does the future hold? Well, the current generation of power systems will be able to piggy back on the advances in battery technology for some time, but will in part depend on better biocompatibility of coating materials. More power = more heat = greater dispersion of said heat. The easiest way to do that is modularize systems and let the body's natural cooling mechanisms deal with dissipation. That being said, something like WiTricity would be one technique.

Another would be harnessing the heat produced by the body to power small scale implantable generators. It might sound far fetched, but at least one lab I interviewed with while scoping out grad schools is working on it. Another option to assist with any power scheme is to take a page from hybrid cars and use the resulting movements to partially power the device. It takes lots of power to lift an arm, so why not harness gravity while it is lowered?

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