Medical technology has advanced so much to the extent of replacing lost organs or improving function of existing ones using artificial implants. These implantable devices are becoming commonplace today by serving as a good alternative to the conventional treatment.
Such effective utilization would not have been possible without the availability of lithium batteries that supply power, thereby ensuring functionality of these tiny, yet useful devices. Designed to be extraordinarily reliable and work continuously for years, the batteries that power implantables are indispensable in everything from pacemakers to the electronic stimulators that help restore function in the brains of Parkinson's patients.
However, lithium batteries don't last forever and new surgery to maintain many devices seeded into the body is required. It is both a physical and financial strain for the patient. In an attempt to ensure superior performance, scientists are now working on silicon-based compounds that are used in the treatment of nervous and other disorders. The unique rechargeable ability of the new generation battery confers twice as longer lifetime than the ones currently used.
This offers a new ray of hope in medical treatment as these new generation electrical devices could be used to stimulate the nervous system, treat incontinence and overcome muscular impairment.
Central to that ability and vision, is emerging a new lithium battery technology, capable of making batteries smaller, last longer and, soon, accept a charge from outside the body without the need for surgery. "It turns out the organosilicon compounds (compounds made of silicon and other natural materials) are really good for improving lithium battery technology," says West, one instrumental behind this significant development. The new battery technology powers a "microstimulater" not much larger than a pencil lead and can be injected near target nerves to help overcome the faulty nervous system wiring at the heart of Parkinson's, epilepsy and incontinence.
They're very flexible, stable, nonflammable, non-toxic and do not pose a threat to the environment, according to the researchers. The average expected life span of these batteries is expected to be over 12 years. Furthermore, it makes use of Silicon, one of the Earth's most abundant elements.
In addition to implantable devices for medicine, lithium batteries are used in scores of applications, from spacecraft to iPods. We will have to watch and wait for some time before the power of these batteries can be exploited to the maximum.