A new tiny surgical implant is underway, all thanks to the neuro engineers of the Rice University. This Neural implant will be no bigger than a rice grain and will be used to provide neural stimulations.
Unlike most other surgical implants that are being circulated in the neuroscience industry, this implant will not require any battery or power supply to derive its energy. It consists of a thin film of magnetoelectric material that uses the surrounding magnetic field to convert the magnetic energy into electrical energy. All other methods that were proposed to power this wireless implant, such as the radio waves, were harmful to the human tissue in the long run.
According to the research published in the Neuron Journal, the material used to manufacture this tiny surgical implant is made up of two different layers that are combined in a single film. One of these layers is the magnetostrictive foil comprising of iron, boron, silicon, and carbon. Once this foil comes in contact with a magnetic field, it produces stress and this stress in return results in the generation of acoustic waves that oscillate at a resonant frequency capable of creating acoustic resonant mode. A similar phenomenon causes hummin noises in the electrical transformers.
The second layer of the film comprises of the piezoelectric crystal, and these crystals utilize the waves generated by the magnetostrictive foil to produce electrical energy.
Even though the magnetoelectric films are capable of producing a vast amount of energy, they operate at a higher frequency, such that they seemed to have no effect on the brain cells. Hence, scientists were met with another challenge and they had to develop circuitry that regulated the activity at a lower frequency, lower enough for the cells to respond to it. Neuroscientists had to make sure that the frequency at which their circuitry was operating only stimulated the neurons and not harmed them.
One of the biggest challenges that the neuro engineers faced while developing this tiny implant was making it small enough to make the surgical procedures less complicated, and that too without harming the working of the implant. Things became even more challenging when the initial implants were supposed to be carried out on rodents. Rodents were way smaller than a human body, and this encouraged the engineers to develop the tiniest possible surgical implant.
The implants were tested by placing them under the skin of the rodents and allowing them to roam free in their enclosed spaces. Moments later it was discovered that the rodents were found in areas with a higher concentration of magnetic field. This magnetic field powered their implants and stimulated their minds.
Battery-powered implants are being used to cure epileptic patients and patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. This time around with this newly developed neural stimulator, the scientists plan on curing depression amongst people.
It took scientists nearly five years to develop this implant since the technology used to build it had to be developed from the grass-root and no similar piece of infrastructure existed before. None of the materials or technology used in the implant could be purchased from a vendor.