Project

In-Vivo Networking: Powering and Communicating with Tiny Battery-Free Devices Inside the Body

MIT Media Lab / Fadel Adib

In-Vivo Networking (IVN) is the new technology that can wirelessly power and communicate with tiny devices implanted deep within the human body. Such devices could be used to deliver drugs, monitor conditions inside the body, or treat disease by stimulating the brain with electricity or light.  

The implants are powered by radio frequency waves, which are safe for humans. In tests in animals, we showed that the waves can power devices located 10 centimeters deep in tissue, from a distance of one meter.

In-Vivo Networking (IVN) is the new technology that can wirelessly power and communicate with tiny devices implanted deep within the human body. Such devices could be used to deliver drugs, monitor conditions inside the body, or treat disease by stimulating the brain with electricity or light.  

The implants are powered by radio frequency waves, which are safe for humans. In tests in animals, we showed that the waves can power devices located 10 centimeters deep in tissue, from a distance of one meter.

Research Topics
#health

The key challenge in realizing this goal is that wireless signals attenuate significantly as they go through the human body. This makes the signal that reaches the implantable sensors too weak to power it up. To overcome this challenge, IVN introduces a new multi-antenna design that leverages a sophisticated signal-generation technique. The technique allows the signals to constructively combine at the sensors to excite them, power them up, and communicate with them.

For more information, read our paper on IVN.


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is IVN?
  2. What are some of the unique aspects of this work?
  3. What kinds of medical applications can IVN enable?
  4. Has IVN been tested? And how?
  5. How small can these devices be?
  6. Is IVN safe for humans?
  7. What were some of the biggest technical challenges in the development?
  8. When could these devices be on the market?
  1. What is IVN?

    IVN (In-Vivo Networking) is a new system that can wirelessly power up and communicate with tiny devices implanted or injected in deep tissues. 

  2. What are some of the unique aspects of this work?

    It presents the first technology that can wirelessly power and communicate from a distance with tiny, battery-free devices implanted inside the human body .

  3. What kinds of medical applications can IVN enable?

    IVN can enable many applications, like:

    1) Performing controlled drug delivery to treat diseases like malaria or Alzheimer's when placed inside smart pills;

    2) Measuring the condition of organs and tissues–such as pressure, glucose, gut microbiome–and sending data to the outside world; and

    3) Treating diseases like Parkinson's or epilepsy when integrated with deep brain stimulators.

  4. Has IVN been tested? And how?

    The technology has been tested inside living mammals, particularly in a living swine. It has been tested under the swine's skin as well as 10 centimeters deep inside the pig's stomach.

  5. How small can these devices be?

    We have tested devices the size of a grain of rice.

  6. Is IVN safe for humans?

    Yes. Because the devices do not have batteries, they are biocompatible and safe for humans. In addition, the wireless signals transmitted by IVN are safe for human exposure.

  7. What were some of the biggest technical challenges in the development?

    The biggest challenge in designing IVN is that wireless signals attenuate quickly as they pass through the human body. So, these signals are very weak to power up the tiny implantable sensors.

  8. When could these devices be on the market?

    The technology is still in its early stages. We expect it to be available within a five- to 10-year time frame.