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Research Findings Shed Light on fully Flexible Artificial Organs

 Research

Researchers from Tianjin University have developed a soft magnetic levitation micropumps (SMLMs) suitable for wearable and implantable applications. It shows great potential for fully flexible artificial organs that may revolutionize health care and improve the well-being of patients.

Centrifugal pumps account for more than 80% of the worlds’ pump production and are capable of offering continuous flow and handling large volumes of fluids with high rotation speeds, large flow rates, and low maintenance requirements. They are one of the widely used mechanical systems to deliver liquids for various applications in industry, household, medicine, and scientific research. They are also essential components in many biomedical systems, such as ventricular assist devices, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines, and dialysis machines, to supply continuous and quantified flows, such as blood, nutrient, and insulin to millions of patients who are suffering from cardiovascular diseases and chronic kidney diseases. Their miniaturization can promote innovative disease treatment approaches and notably change the lifestyles of patients by allowing them to perform daily activities while receiving treatment.

However, even the smallest and most advanced centrifugal pump is 200 grams in weight, 5 cm in diameter, and 3.4 cm in height, since they are predominantly constructed by mechanically rigid components that involve magnetically driven rotors coupled with impellers with shafts.

To realize the miniaturization and weight reduction of centrifugal pumps, Prof. Huang Xian’s team from Tianjin University combined the soft materials and flexible electronics to achieve soft magnetic levitation micropumps (SMLMs) that are only 1.9 to 12.8 grams in weight. The SMLMs that rotate at a rotation speed of 1000 revolutions per min to pump liquids with various viscosities ranging from 1 to 6 centipoise. They can be used in assisting dialysis, blood circulation, and skin temperature control because of excellent biocompatibility with no organ damage.

A schematic of an SMLM that can be worn or implanted for disease treatment and micro-environment adjustment.

"The power consumption of the whole system is within 4W. After long-time fluid transportation, the temperature of the SMLM does not exceed 37C, which will not cause damage to human tissue. Its flexible structure can adapt to the movement of human body for a certain degree of deformation, and has pump flow capacity at different operating angles. The flexible materials and structures more in line with ergonomics make the pump more suitable for long-term wear,” said Zhou Mingxing, one of the researchers.

By Eva Yin