Friday, 31 October 2014

High-five for high-power

Tackling the rise in demand for portable medical devices delivering high-rate power discharge, battery specialist Accutronics will be launching a new CMX range on 12 November, 2014 at COMPAMED, the international medical trade show held in Dusseldorf, Germany. In anticipation of the launch, we explore the world of portable power.

Speed is of the essence in life-critical applications. Usually, ambulance crews will transport heart-attack patients to the hospital's emergency ward as soon as possible. However, a leading UK Accident & Emergency doctor recently called for patients to be treated by paramedics until their heart starts beating or they die.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Benger says that it, "may be actively harmful" to rush cardiac arrest patients to hospital. Because there is only a short time-window of around 50 minutes before permanent brain damage sets in, it is vital that treatment is provided quickly and effectively.

The last few years have seen an increased demand in mobile technology used in hospitals and in the field. Specialised stroke emergency mobile (STEMO) ambulances fitted with portable CT scanners cut the alarm-to-treatment period to just 25 minutes. Acute ventilators, portable anaesthesia workstations and intra-oral scanners are other examples of medical equipment breaking free from the traditional mains power supply.

However, the challenge with these devices is the high-rate power delivery required to operate reliably. The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has highlighted the challenge of transporting patients from one part of the world to another. Medical equipment used in the transport of patients must be capable of operating with limited resource for electricity, water and compressed gas.

On September 4, 2014, in response to the Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued guidelines for medical equipment donated for use in the field. The guidelines reinforce the necessity for devices to use high-quality backup power, with current stabilisation, surge protection and uninterrupted power supplies to protect against blackouts and unsustainable mains power.

To overcome these problems, here at Accutronics we've developed a new CMX smart-battery range specifically for high-power applications. Capable of accurate fuel gauging, built to international regulatory standards (IEC62133, UL2054) and offering device-to-host communication for continuous swappable power, the new range will be especially useful in the increasingly dynamic nature of modern hospital care.

Visitors to COMPAMED can find out more about how the CMX range will revolutionise the mobile medical market at Accutronics' product launch press conference. The event will be held at 3pm on the 12th of November, 2014 in room 801a off hall 8b at COMPAMED. Alternatively you can view and discuss the new product range in Hall 8b Stand F30 where Accutronics will be exhibiting. If you're interested in attending, you can register for free by calling 01785 225416 today.

If you’re unable to make it to COMPAMED, we will also be launching and displaying the new CMX series at ELECTRONICA in Munich between 11th and 14th November in Hall B2 Stand Booth 454.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Rechargeable Batteries for Medical Devices

Portable medical devices have benefitted hugely from various advanced technologies which were initially developed for consumer electronic devices such as notebook computers and smart phones, when coupled with these enabling technologies they are being developed faster, made easier to use, and now perform more reliably than ever before.
One continuing complaint from consumers is ‘battery life’. If the battery in your notebook computer runs out while you are writing a report it is annoying, if the battery fuel gauge on your smartphone jumps instantly from 25% to 0% and then shuts off while you are on the train home then it can be frustrating – but in either case no real harm is done. However if a doctor in a hospital is transporting a patient connected to a battery powered portable ventilator or, similarly a paramedic is working on a patient in the street using a battery powered aspirator, then the batteries used to power the portable medical equipment must be completely reliable or patient care could be at risk.  These batteries must work each and every time and never let the medical professional, or their patients down when they need them most.

Regulatory Framework
Until recently the regulatory framework surrounding the use of batteries in medical devices was poor. There was little or no regulation regarding testing requirements for batteries and it was down to the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and the battery integrator to work out an agreed quality, safety and performance standard for the battery.
Today, the medical device standard IEC60601-1 (3rd edition) requires that most battery powered medical devices have their batteries (and the cells within them) tested to IEC62133, which has the catchy title of “Secondary cells and batteries containing alkaline or other non-acid electrolytes - Safety requirements for portable sealed secondary cells, and for batteries made from them, for use in portable applications”. In addition, Lithium ion batteries (and the cells within them) must be tested to ensure they are safe for transport, and of course, the relevant electromagnetic compatibility standards must be met to allow for CE marking.
Of course, the long arm approach of purchasing a product that has met the relevant regulatory standards does not alone ensure a reliable and safe product.  The device OEM has the responsibility of selecting and partnering with a battery integrator who has a proven track record in the development and manufacture of batteries for medical devices – ones that are also certified to ISO13485 demonstrate they have the correct quality management procedures in place and will furthermore strive for the continuous improvements required for the medical device industry.
The need for a professional battery Integrator
A good battery integrator will advise the OEM on the correct battery chemistry to use.  Most OEM customers would simply specify ‘Lithium Ion’ because of its high gravimetric and volumetric energy density, but few realise the term is actually a catch-all for a wide number of different cells types that encompass different cell chemistries, cell manufacturing techniques and physical form factors. Selecting the wrong cell type can be very costly indeed and can result in poor performance, customer dissatisfaction or even product recall.
The Smart Battery
Understanding how much runtime remains is vital for users of portable medical devices. If a medical professional cannot rely on the battery fuel gauge then they lose confidence in their ability to use the device away from the AC supply and suffer from runtime anxiety – the worry that they cannot complete their task before the battery energy is depleted.
A good battery integrator will gain a deep understanding of how the medical device will be used and design an electronic fuel gauge system into the battery which constantly tracks the charge, rest and discharge activity. These electronic systems factor-in the prevailing environmental conditions and even the age of the battery to provide a runtime prediction which can be as accurate as ±1%. This runtime prediction is automatically communicated to the device which then displays it in a format the user can easily understand – the battery will even communicate warnings when runtime becomes critical so the user can take action and charge the battery or replace it with another.
As safety is paramount, a battery integrator will include active protection circuitry into the design. These protection circuits monitor the voltage of each cell in the battery and prevent its charge or discharge if one or more cells is in an over-charge or over-discharge condition. The battery is also protected against over temperature conditions or if discharge currents exceed predetermined levels. Industry best practise dictates that secondary over-charge protection is included when designing Lithium Ion batteries to prevent them from becoming unsafe should both the charger and active protection fail. Secondary over-charge protection activates a non-resettable fuse, permanently preventing further operation.
The market for portable medical devices is growing rapidly and the increased regulation surrounding the batteries that power them can only help to ensure the devices are safer and more reliable than in the past.
Battery integrators continue to play an important part in providing OEMs with the best battery technology available which allows medical professionals to take their equipment and skills closer to their patients where they can make a real difference - after all, the outcome for the patient is what matters most.

Neil Oliver
Technical Marketing Manager