Implantable medical device innovator visits Libraries

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Canan Dagdeviren, Image courtesy of Yesim Erdmann

Flex the muscles in your arm. That’s kinetic energy. What if you could harvest that as electricity, like how dams use flowing water or windmills wind?

Canan Dagdeviren has put this idea into action through her Conformable Decoders research group at the MIT Media Lab. Using innovative materials, mechanics and device designs, her team develops wearable health monitoring systems and implantable and minimally invasive medical devices. Implantable medical device

On Thursday, April 13, Dagdeviren will lead a workshop in the D. H. Hill Library Makerspace at 10 a.m. and give a free, public talk at 6 p.m. in the Duke Energy Hall in the Hunt Library.

At the Media Lab, Dagdeviren’s group concentrates on adaptive systems that intimately integrate with one’s body. The Conformable Decoders group is so named because their approach is to ‘decode’ a body’s natural patterns into beneficial signals and energy. The group develops electrodes, sensors and energy harvesting components with promising applications like self-powered cardiac pacemakers, wearable blood pressure sensors and brain injectrodes.

That constant tensing and untensing of your muscles produces a squeezing action. A small harvester, integrated permanently into your musculature, can power an implanted device like a pacemaker. Currently, people with pacemakers must undergo a surgical procedure to replace the unit’s battery every five-to-eight years. Ideally, the piezoelectric (“piezo-” means “squeeze”) energy from daily activities like lifting a coffee cup and opening a door could keep a pacemaker running.

Dagdeviren’s group also focuses on the materials side of implantable devices, developing microfabrication techniques for electronic components which match the shape and action of human tissues, allowing them to be integrated without irritation. The devices can be twisted, folded and wrapped onto curvilinear surfaces or implanted without damage or difficulty.

Born in Istanbul, Dagdeviren earned her PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She conducted her postdoctoral research at the MIT David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Her work has been widely featured in Smithsonian Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and the BBC News. In 2015, Forbes magazine selected her as one of the "Top 30 Under 30 in Science.”