Magnetically Charged Implant Stimulates the Brain and Nervous System

By Katy Mena-Berkley
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Researchers with Rice University develop the first neural stimulator powered by magnetic energy.

Many patients with neurological conditions, including epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, rely on battery-powered surgical implants to stimulate the nervous system. While effective, these devices are bulky and require frequent battery replacement or charging that must be accomplished through surgery. Additionally, these devices involve wires that may be associated with infection.

To address the issues involved with neural stimulators, neuroengineers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, have created a wireless implant fueled by magnetoelectric technology. The device is tiny — comparable to a grain of rice — and comprised of two layers encased by a sheath of film. Because the device is so small, major surgery is not required for implantation.

Creating Alternative Power

  • One layer of the stimulator is a magnetostrictive foil made of boron, carbon, iron and silicon. This layer vibrates on a molecular level and creates acoustic waves when the layer is positioned in a magnetic field. The other layer, a piezoelectric crystal, transforms the acoustic waves into electric voltage on par with the power created by a battery-charged implant.
  • The neural stimulator may be placed just under the skin in various locations of the body using a minimally invasive procedure.