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Implantable devices

Implantable and insertable devices, monitoring and treating people’s health, will get smaller and smarter. All thanks to the innovative technologies that imec is developing.

Pacemakers have changed people’s lives and nerve stimulation closed-loop therapies will do the same in the future. Could we one day maybe even wear our wearable sensors ‘on the inside’, monitoring and treating our health in an unobtrusive and autonomous way? Imec believes we can. The key is miniaturization and smart system design.

Take a look inside

Our health care system has a hard time dealing with all kinds of diseases associated with an aging population. Think of neurological and cardiovascular illnesses that not always can be mitigated by medication alone.

Luckily, implantable electronic devices come to the rescue, in the form of deep-brain stimulators, gastric pacemakers, cardioverter defibrillators etc. The challenges to make these products include:

  • low energy consumption
  • reliable and stable long-term functioning
  • biocompatibility

Implantable devices: small, smaller, smallest

Imec is a champion in making things smaller. It has been the main driver in the semiconductor industry for many years. Now, this expertise can also help to develop innovative implantable and insertable devices. We bring devices from palm to fingertip size.

An implant actually comprises a full system of components. Imec’s strength is innovating at all levels and even doing cross-layer optimization:

  • sensing based on electrical, chemical or image-based modalities.
  • actuation including electrical, mechanical and optical stimulation
  • new biosensor concepts based on imec’s lifescience expertise
  • algorithms for signal preprocessing and feature extraction
  • wireless powering and charging for surface or deep tissue implants
  • wireless communication with focus on low-power design thanks to dedicated ASIC design capabilities
  • hermetic sealing and encapsulation ensuring biocompatibility and biostability
  • custom ASIC design for implants
  • data processing and data privacy

Imec can help research and develop a specific block of the implanted device or the full system, including an external unit to read out, process and visualize the data and to give actionable insights to the user.

Get in touch

A great illustration of how these capabilities can lead to innovative technology is the prototype implantable chip that imec developed together with the University of Florida, to give patients more intuitive control over their arm prosthetics. The thin-silicon chip is a world’s first for electrode density and was developed as part of the IMPRESS project funded by the DARPA’s HAPTIX program to create a closed-loop system for future-generation haptic prosthetics technology.

Imec can also assist in the FDA approval process, like illustrated in this story about the collaboration with BioTelemetry.

Want to know more about this topic? Download our white paper on ‘Technologies for next-generation implantable devices’

Imec’s research into implantable technologies ties in with our development of ingestible sensors as part of the exploration of data-controlled food and health within the OnePlanet Research Center.