High Energy Density, Long Life, Betavoltaic Power Cells for Pacemakers and other Implantable Devices

Period of Performance: 04/01/2015 - 09/30/2015


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Widetronix, Inc.
ITHACA, NY 14850
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Pacemakers are small devices that help control abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmia, which can lead to serious, life-threatening conditions, including organ damage, cardiac arrest, and death. Indeed, pacemakers are a highly important treatment option for cardiac arrhythmia with 1,002,664 implanted in 2009, including 225,567 in the U.S, growing at an annual rate of 55.6%. Given the aging population and increased likelihood of arrhythmia as a person ages, the number of implants is expected to increase in the future. There are two main limitations associated with the majority of currently marketed pacemakers, both of which are tied to the battery: usable lifetime and device volume. Typical pacemakers need to be replaced every 5 to 7 years due to the specified lifetime of their electro-chemical batteries, meaning 20% of pacemaker implantations are replacement devices and 76% of those replacements are battery related. This constraint results in significant cost, up to $80,000/per implant in the U.S., as well as health risks and inconvenience for the patient. Pacemaker volume is also an important issue for patients and physicians. Current batteries constitute over 50% of the volume of a conventional model. While pacemaker size has reduced over time, the current footprint remains visible under the skin, and hence, less than ideal from a quality of life perspective. The goal of this research project is to develop a next generation battery for pacemakers and other medical implants through the development of novel textured silicon carbide (SiC) betavoltaics that will provide a more compact and long-lived power source for next-generation implants. Betavoltaics are micro power sources that produce continuous voltage and current by harvesting betas, electrons produced from isotope decay, and converting their energy to electrical power with a semiconductor device. Widetronix's innovation is embedding an isotope layer around the textured features of a wide bandgap semiconductor. Because of the extremely high energy density of the isotope fuel, this technology has the potential to achieve power densities ten-fold greater than existing pacemaker batteries with projected operational lifetimes exceeding 15 years. These features will result in definite improvements to the quality of patient care and, in the long term, reduce the cost of the implantable device over its useful lifetime. The Phase I aims will involve investigating the conditions to control stress of the deposited metal seed layer during the tritiation process in order to optimize tritide formation and loading, specifically, developing a process for embedding a secure metal hydride layer on the surface of textured SiC test structure;integrating tritium int themetal hydride layer on the surface of a textured SiC device;and demonstrating the potential for betavoltaic-enabled pacing.