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There is an article about a research in nanogenerators and transmitters used to make a self-powering implant which can transmit wireless signals to receivers over a distance. It is claimed that

A new generation of battery-free surveillance devices which can be implanted under the skin and transmit over huge distances via wireless have been developed by scientists.

And according to the researchers,

‘It is entirely possible to drive the devices by scavenging energy from sources in the environment such as gentle airflow, vibration, sonic wave, solar, chemical, and/or thermal energy,’

This researchers also claim that such technology is practical in many situations like monitoring patients in medical purposes. But concerns about privacy are raised as well (see the comments of the first article), especially whether this would be used as surveillance covert devices which remotely eavesdrop and monitors people, transmitting the signals to receivers far away, while being totally self-powered in the way described above and in the article.

The device would consist of a nanogenerator which makes electricity from vibration or motion, a capacitor which stores they energy and a Bluetooth-style transmitter to end the signal. According to Science Daily it would be able to pick up wireless signals at a distance of more than 30ft.

The original paper is here . It is worth noting that the author of the original research is involved in the invention of nanogenerator as well as more related researches. See papers like Nanogenerator-Based Self-Powered Sensors for Wearable and Implantable Electronics and A constant current triboelectric nanogenerator arising from electrostatic breakdown are also claiming the good and practical performances of nanogenerators and self-powering devices.

But contrary to their claims, no recorded practical uses of such devices in medical treatments or surveillance have been recorded. The question is, is it realistically possible to make such remote self-powered implanted transmitter for practical situations? Namely is the nanogenerator, which has been repeated advertised by research teams, really have the practical utility of powering the described type of implants, which is quite energy consuming (especially when the transmitter need to send signals over long distances) with respect to small devices (I assume the device should be small to be implanted in certain situations).

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    You've found a claim that one part of such a device (and its infrastructure) has been built in a lab. You've found speculation that the rest might be built one day. If you want us to look into whether the described nano-generator exists and works as described, let's focus the question. Note: There is no claim in the article of eavesdropping and there is no claim of covertness - you added those aspects.
    – Oddthinking
    Nov 2 at 8:49
  • @Oddthinking thanks for the comment and I have edited the question according to what you suggest. The covert ness claim is implied in the article, though not explicitly state (see the military use part), and it is explicitly raised in the comments of the article. I admit that I should have made this clearer.
    – RLR
    Nov 2 at 20:34
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    And it would be interesting if the 'covert' is towards the wearer, i.e. somone unknowingly having such a device implanted, or towards everyone else, where such a claim is trivial, as even rather huge heartmonitors, brain-electrode-nets, or hips can be implanted without being visible from outside. ---
    – bukwyrm
    Nov 4 at 22:09
  • @RLR please clear up my above question, and additionally please make your question more on-point: In the middle you seem to talk about surveillance exclusively, while in the actual question at the end it is unclear ('medical or surveillance') - please also make more clear what 'surveillance' should mean in your context. Would a device that sends a 'ping' every second, and can be triangulated over several kilometers count as surveillance? would medical info be sufficient (heartbeat is very non-data-intensive to transmit...) datarate (and ratio of activity) and range are absolutely crucial here.
    – bukwyrm
    Nov 11 at 7:37
  • Also please clear up what the "receiver" is - if i can follow you with a van (covert dish), the implant could be much smaller than when i want the implant to work with the ambient 5G networks. In the van case, the implant could even be passive.. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thing_(listening_device))
    – bukwyrm
    Nov 11 at 7:41
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The paper you linked purports 10 V * 6e-7 A were produced, which is 6e-6 W - it also purports that this is a power density of 1e-2 W/cm², which would put the area of the actual generator being used at 1cm²/1e4 = (0.1mm)² this seems ... improbable..., but: Other papers, also using ZnO nanowires, get 3e-7 W/cm² and 1e-3 W/cm² so while the value reported by your linked paper is still ten times better than the best one i found, there seems to be a huge spread, so why not? Note, though, that these are power measures. What would be needed would be energy, i.e. sustained power.

Anyways the major problem lies on another front: to successfully send data from within your body to a far-field receiver, you would need to transmit your data through the watery substrate of said body. That takes power. It could be overcome by using intra-body comms to a sender on the bodys surface, and then broadcast from there, which would probably break you definition of implant?

A very small bluetooth SoC can be only 2.0 x 1.7 mm, and only needs few peripherals, including a ~1cm (folded) antenna.

There is absolutely nothing that seems improbable about the whole concept of body-powered electronics - electronics are extremely low-energy, and a human body has tons of superfluous energy to tap into.

Re: inoccuousness: Zn has a rather high Z-number, so a generator with ZnO nanowires would likely show up on Xrays anywhere in the body, while Si and plastics may be hide-able near Ca-rich bone, if you go with graphene as conductor in lieu of copper...

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  • Thanks for the answer. What is the reference of “ A very small bluetooth SoC can be only 2.0 x 1.7 mm, and only needs few peripherals, including a ~1cm (folded) antenna”? The link seems to be the research which is previously linked in your answer already and is irrelevant to “Bluetooth SoC.”
    – RLR
    Nov 11 at 0:02
  • “ There is absolutely nothing that seems improbable about the whole concept of body-powered electronics - electronics are extremely low-energy, and a human body has tons of superfluous energy to tap into.” well but a transmitter, as described in the question, which is powerful enough to be a surveillance device isn’t something “low-energy” I believe? And certainly using the extra broadcast (Bluetooth etc.) is no longer implanted and can have separate power sources other than human body itself.
    – RLR
    Nov 11 at 0:05
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    @RLR the question only asks for 'medical treatments or surveillance' - so i thought that was it. the bluetooth connectivity would allow it to communicate with a smartphone, which could work as a relay (standard in medical applications, and not unthinkable in surveillance) medical devices can limit themselves to short, intermittent bursts of data, which would be energy-saving. A GPS-enabled, ambient-sound-transmitting implant that can send continuously to a receiver many hundreds of meters away AND is small enough to be implanted without the wearer knowing is pure fiction.
    – bukwyrm
    Nov 11 at 7:31
  • Thanks very much for your clarification. GPS enabled is not the point in the original article as well. But I believe even without GPS, an “ambient-sound-transmitting implant that can send continuously to a receiver many hundreds of meters away AND is small enough to be implanted without the wearer knowing” (just like what the article infers, basically a surveillance listening device small enough to be implanted and is able to get power from body to transmit over hundreds of meters), is also pure fiction and not realistic right? I think the transmission is too energy consuming.
    – RLR
    Nov 11 at 17:15
  • And I guess connecting to the Bluetooth (or other external transmitters) first wouldn’t mean surveillance (because it takes extra equipment which need to be close enough to humans body and is not implanted), though as you said it’s enough for medical purposes for sure.
    – RLR
    Nov 11 at 17:17

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