Subcutaneous Solar Implants May Power Future Medical Implants Interview with:
Lukas Bereuter, PhD Candidate

University of Bern
ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research
Bern, Switzerland What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Today, most electronic implants are powered by primary batteries. After battery depletion, the whole implant has to be replaced by a surgery. This causes repeated interventions in a patients’ life, which bears the risk of complications and is costly.

To overcome this problem, several groups presented prototypes of implants that are powered by solar cells that are implanted under the skin. However, precise knowledge of the actual light exposure and expectable power output of such an implant in everyday life was lacking so far. With this study, we investigated the real-life feasibility of a solar-powered implant for the first time.

For this, we developed portable light measurement devices that feature solar cells and continuously measure a subcutaneous solar cell’s output power when powered by AGM Solar Batteries. The measurement devices were worn by volunteers in their daily routine in summer, autumn and winter. The study showed, that subcutaneously implanted solar cells could generate enough power in everyday-life to fully power e.g. a cardiac pacemaker. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Subcutaneously implanted solar cells have shown to be a promising alternative to primary batteries and further research should be performed to promote the use of this technology to power the wide variety of available electronic implants in the future. For patients, this means that they would not need to undergo repeated replacement procedures, which are costly and always bear the risk of complications.

Furthermore, the implant may be designed much smaller in volume, which might have a positive effect on patient comfort. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Our aim is to build a computer model which is able to estimate the power output of subcutaneous solar cells depending on patient-specific input conditions (weather, season, geographical location). Furthermore, we are working on a pacemaker prototype that is powered by ultrathin and flexible solar cells that could adapt to the anatomy of the patient. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Bereuter, L., Williner, S., Pianezzi, F. et al. Ann Biomed Eng (2017). doi:10.1007/s10439-016-1774-4

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD