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Space Technology Hall of Fame

Heart Defibrillator Energy Source

Year: 
Inducted Individuals: 
Dr. Joel Ennis
John Gilbert
D. Haskell
Joseph Sevigny
Technology Description: 

Proper heart rhythms can often be reestablished by the sudden discharge of stored energy in this pulsed-power device which uses a capacitor originally developed for space-based lasers and accelerators. In the mid-1980's, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) funded a company now named Maxwell Technologies to develop a high energy-density thin-film capacitor - a device that stores and discharges energy. Since then, derivatives of this technology are being applied in pulsed-power devices to purify water, sterilize medical products, preserve food, and power heart defibrillators. 

At present, it is estimated that fewer than one-third of ambulances is equipped with defibrillators and about 15% of fire department emergency response vehicles carry these life-saving devices. Equipping more emergency personnel with capacitor-based portable heart defibrillators would result in saving lives and is a goal of medical supply companies like Zoll Medical Corporation who are partnering with Maxwell Technologies.

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