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A new class of human-powered bioelectronics

What's New? | October 11, 2021 | By:

Researchers at UCLA have created a new bioelectric device that relies on magnetism. Photo: University of California Los Angeles. 

A team of bioengineers at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering has invented a novel, soft and flexible, self-powered bioelectronic device. The technology converts human body motions, from bending an elbow to subtle movements such as a pulse on one’s wrist, into electricity that could be used to power wearable and implantable diagnostic sensors.

The researchers discovered that the magnetoelastic effect (the change of how much a material is magnetized when tiny magnets are constantly pushed together and pulled apart by mechanical pressure) can exist in a soft and flexible system. To prove their concept, the team used microscopic magnets dispersed in a paper-thin silicone matrix to generate a magnetic field that changes in strength as the matrix undulated. As the magnetic field’s strength shifts, electricity is generated. 

“Our finding opens up a new avenue for practical energy, sensing and therapeutic technologies that are human body-centric and can be connected to the Internet of Things,” said study leader Jun Chen, an assistant professor of bioengineering at UCLA Samueli. “What makes this technology unique is that it allows people to stretch and move with comfort when the device is pressed against human skin, and because it relies on magnetism rather than electricity, humidity and our own sweat do not compromise its effectiveness.”

The flexible magnetoelastic generator is so sensitive that it could convert human pulse waves into electrical signals and act as a self-powered, waterproof heart-rate monitor. The electricity generated can also be used to sustainably power other wearable devices, such as a sweat sensor or a thermometer.

A patent on the technology has been filed by the UCLA Technology Development Group.

Source: University of California Los Angeles

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