Nuclear Powered Pacemakers for the Heart

By Anupum Pant

Heart and Pacemakers

Your heart is a complex device. It comes with its own sophisticated electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeats. The electrical system is responsible to make the heart contract and as a result pump blood into your body. It is required to keep a proper rate and rhythm. There is a whole lot to learn about how the human heart works. But that is for some other day. Or, you can read it here – [Link]

As years pass, like any other electrical system, even the heart is prone to electrical faults. Faulty signals can make the rhythmic beating, non-rhythmic. This can make life difficult for a person. Enter pacemaker…

Pacemakers are small devices that are placed in the chest. They use low energy pulses to maintain the rate and rhythm of your heartbeats by overcoming the faulty electrical signals. Sometimes Permanent pacemakers have to be used to control long-term heart problems. For this, they are required to run for a long time without replacement. Who’d want their chest dug every two months to replace the pacemaker battery?!

Nuclear powered

Nuclear batteries work due to a nonstop radioactive decay of certain elements. They can last for incredibly long times. Due to their extremely long lives and high densities they are used in space devices and other underwater systems; basically, in systems where replacement of batteries is not an option. So, scientists from the past thought – why not use them to power pacemakers too!

In the 1960s, scientists at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico began exploring the feasibility of being able to use nuclear power for pacemakers. The idea was to develop a penny sized battery that could be used with a pacemaker and could be implanted in a human body. It was made. And they decided to call it an atomic battery or Radioisotope battery or simply a nuclear battery.

Despite bearing the name “nuclear” battery, they were not really little nuclear reactors as they didn’t use chain reactions to produce energy. So, there was no danger of a meltdown. They were safe devices. No radiation related issues were ever reported.

The Problem

Agreed these batteries were costly and weighed a lot, but that was not the problem. The big problem was that they contained hazardous material which had to be recovered once a patient died. There were several instances when a person had died; the living relative had returned the nuclear battery, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission never received it.

However, later in the year 1988 last of the nuclear batteries were used. Now they were being replaced with long lasting (~10 years) lithium batteries.

Even today Los Alamos National Laboratory has a fact sheet on their website that mentions what to do in case you find a nuclear battery.

15 Craziest Ways to Charge Your Phone [Part 1]

By Anupum Pant

What was considered a remarkable method some years back, today, using solar cells to charge your phone has gone too main stream. How about doing it with a flamethrower, or moon light maybe? Brace yourselves up for an unusually long and interesting compendium of some the most craziest things you could use to charge your phone. And of course, I thank science for bringing these things into the world.

Here, I’ve compiled a few crazy ways to charge your phone. Feel free to contribute any others you know and point out ignorance in the comments section below.

Note: The absurd methods I’ve collected here may set your phone on fire, or worse. So, please do not try them at home. If you do, and succeed in melting your phone, do not blame me for it. Or rather, read whatever you can find about it, before experimenting.

1. Moon Light

What if photovoltaic cells were so efficient that they could draw electricity from the moon-light all night? Well, here you go.
A German architect named André Broessel worked on a project for 3 years to put together a novel process of drawing solar energy that would be far more efficient than the existing ones. In the end, he came out with this perfectly spherical glass ball filled with water, which can use up whatever minimum light it receives to create electricity. So, on a cloudy day or even at night (using light from sun reflected by the moon), with this set up on your terrace you’ll be making electricity 24X7. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about the sun or moon moving in the sky. It comes with a tracking system which adjusts itself to capture the light.
It is basically a super-refined version of one of those solar death rays I talked about a few days back.

Your phone is small; this is something which could make whole skyscrapers go off-grid. So, go and give it away on Indie GoGo whatever little you can contribute to the project.

2. Hand Cranked


With the amazing moon light capture device for the future, now let us move on to this hand cranked variant of a mobile power bank, you can buy right now. For everyday use, this backup battery pack comes with a hand turbine power generator that will keep you all charged up all the time. It contains a rechargeable 2000 mAh lithium battery for power which can be cranked up for about a minute to create 4 minutes of battery life out of thin air. If you were expecting free energy, in the end, it is important to know that with this device, to bring your phone from completely dead to 100% battery would require nearly an effort equivalent to a full-body workout.
Also, I found a cheaper variant, which works on a similar principle but isn’t documented well on the internet. It got “India talking” for obvious reasons (costs only $7). They call it the RotoCharger.
If you are looking for an easier way, read on.

3. Lightning

Yes, the same thing that Raijin (雷神) drops on earth 100 times every seconds,  is 3 miles long and carries a current of 10,000 Amps at 100 million Volts, was used to charge a Nokia phone. Last year, scientists from the University of Southampton teamed up with Nokia to try and harness the energy of a lightning bolt to charge a phone. They succeeded in charging a Nokia Lumia 925 with a 200,000 volt lightning bolt, created in the laboratory.

Here is a YouTube video posted by Nokia’s official YouTube channel demonstrating the same:

4. Wind/Air


In a recent development, researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have developed a micro-windmill made up of a nickel alloy. It is so small that you could put 10 of them could on a grain of rice. According to them, in the future, hundreds of these tiny windmills could end up in the housing of your smart phones and power them using wind energy.

Earlier, undergrads from Nirma University of Ahmedabad in India had developed an eco-friendly headgear that used a little fan for harnessing wind energy. As it also uses solar energy, at just $22, it is indeed a great device for charging your phone on the move.

Talking about devices that can harness wind energy on the move, the iFan is one ingenious device that comes to mind. It can be mounted on a bicycle or can be held outside a car window to charge your iPhone.

Lung Power: Talking about air, there is this clever gadget that transforms the air from your lungs into energy to charge your phone. Created by Inventor Joco Paulo Lammoglia, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, AIRE mask can harnesses the wind power created by breathing and converts it into electricity to run anything from your iPod to your mobile.

5. Body Heat

body heat phone charger

Working on the same principle as the flashlight without batteries, a jacket developed by Stephen Beeby, Professor of Electronic Systems at the University of Southampton, uses thermoelectricity to power your phone. According to the professor, you have to sleep for quite some time to find a fully charged phone:

Eight hours in the sleeping bag, roughly speaking, will provide 24 minutes of talk time and 11 hours of standby time. That’s assuming the inside of the sleeping bag is 37 degrees – human body temperature.

6. Sound

soundcharge tee

In theory, talking to your can generate energy to charge a phone. Although to win a substantial amount of battery life from this prototype, you’ll have to scream at the top of your voice. According the lead researcher, Sang-Woo Kim of Sungkyunkwan University’s nanotechnology institute who invented it, it requires 100 decibels to generate 50 milli-volts of electricity. That’s enough to give a Smartphone battery a little support, is still far from what a normal wall plug charger could give you. The researchers are really confident about taking this technology to the next level and making it viable for practical use.

Another one: GotWind’s Sound Charge t-shirt converts sound into electricity. A person wearing this can charge a device battery while thrashing around in the mosh pit. A textbook sized panel of Piezoelectric film in the front acts like a microphone. It absorbs sound waves and converts them into electricity through the compression of interlaced quartz crystals. This electricity is then fed into an external power bank. [Video]

7. Shake

There was a time when kinetic wrist watches were the fad. Today, how cool would it be if you could shake up your phone for an extra boost?
So, Researchers at Virginia Tech tried to make a charger that draws energy from a piezoelectric material and could convert vibrations into energy. They say, when it is done, simple taps on the phone screen or keyboard would produce enough energy to deal with emergencies.

But, long before the researchers announced this, the world had seen nPower PEG. Apparently, it is the world’s 1st human-powered charger for hand-held electronics. It gives you access to backup battery power even when you’re away from home by using the energy you generate while walking, running, or biking to charge your smart phone, music player, GPS, or other devices.

Ah! I’ve written too much for the day. Remember to check back next week for the 2nd part of this post. 

Cellphones and Safety at Gas Stations

By Anupum Pant

I’ve been chided several times for taking a call while filling up my vehicle at a petrol pump. All these times I’ve felt bad for going against the clearly displayed signs which say “no cellphones”. Unfortunately, phones today have become our extended arms, we are not always aware when we click the green button on them (touch the green button these days). When I do, I usually run out of the gas station to save my life. Do you know why?

Widely circulated chain messages

Well, the displayed signs at the gas station have coded it in me to keep the cellphone away. They clearly tell you to keep your phones away. But, it is mostly because I’ve received about a 100 chain messages telling me this (please don’t pass it on):


Mobile phones an explosive risk at gas stations. Switch off your mobile phone while filling your car. This is the latest advice for mobile phone users and gas station attendants alike from the Chinese Petroleum Corp. (CPC), which has recently informed all its affiliates to be on alert for people chatting on mobiles while pumping gas, a practice it asserts can cause explosions. “There have been several explosions in Southeast Asia and Europe and we hope similar tragedies can be avoided in Taiwan,” said David Tung from CPC’s main engineering division….

But is it really that dangerous to use a phone in the gas station? Even if TOI tell me it is, I decided to find out.

Most end up simply believing these messages, especially when they [the messages] are strengthened by videos like these: [Video 1] [Video 2]. The truck video doesn’t show where exactly the cellphone came from. Like a comment under the video points out, he could have been using a lighter to see the level of petrol (this couldn’t be true either).

But, let me tell you, not all videos on the internet are real. For example see these: [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3].
Cellphone ‘Radiation’: According to one of these videos, radiation from a couple of cellphones has enough energy to pop popcorn. This is pure BS. To counter that, I’ll tell you it takes my microwave 2 minute 45 seconds at full power to pop a bowl of popcorn. If cell phones could do that, well, great. We would need no microwave ovens anymore. Still, it is up to you, you could go ahead and believe that if you want to…

Still, what if a spark coming off from the battery of a cellphone could cause petrol to set on fire?
No, it won’t. A car’s ignition spark could do that as well. Moreover, sparks in cellphone batteries are extremely rare events as compared to Ignition sparks, that happen thousands of times at every gas station everyday.
Also, some sources say that it needs a naked flame to set petrol fumes on fire. Even a lit cigarette isn’t capable to set petrol on fire. [Source]. But, I can’t confirm that. And I do not want to try to, by shooting a video of me doing that. Nor should you.

There is no credible evidence of an event where a cellphone has caused a blast in a gas station. Not even one!

Best way to stay safe

As far as science is concerned, it is highly unlikely that a cellphone could kill you at gas stations (but something else certainly can, read on to find out). I won’t tell you to go around talking on your cellphone when you are at a gas station. Your family members will sue me if you die.  But, there is no point in taking the trouble to switch it off before you enter a gas station.
So, better avoid talking, even if you know nothing will go wrong because science tells you so. Not everything can be explained or substantiated by science. Also, don’t try to explain it to the authorities at the gas station. No one will believe you. They’ll make fun of you and call you mad – Like the Roman Catholic Church back then KNEW Galileo was a mad person.
In short, no one knows for sure if phones cause these fires or not.

What is the point of this article then?

There you go! The point is to inform you and tell you that there are some things that can actually kill you at a gas station; like something as harmless as your Nylon windcheater! I’ve attached a credible evidence below:

So, the signs at a gas station should probably say, “No nylon” instead.
[Read more]