Diesel-Powered Artificial Heart Packs Punch

Sept. 7, 2006
DETROIT–In a paper released early Monday researchers from Carnegie-Mellon University and the Ford Motor Company announced successful prototype testing of a promising new artificial heart powered by a diesel-fueled internal combustion engine. “We’re pleased with the new results and are in the process of selecting patients for trial implantation,” notes Leslie Waiste, head of the research team responsible for designing the new heart. “This is quite a breakthrough in both power and durability. This heart is ram tough.”

The heart, nicknamed the “Model H,” consists of a compact 4-cylinder, 4-stroke compression-ignition engine driving a 4-chambered Teflon-coated bellows. The high-power, high-efficiency engine is fed by a close-proximity high-density fuel reservoir, and exhaust is expelled through a set of muffled, micro-articulated stacks designed to emerge discretely from just behind each of the ears. The engine is refueled through a dime-sized nozzle mounted just below the clavicle by means of a handy finger-pump-driven siphon.

“By making use of miniaturized combustion technologies, we’ve overcome the need for bulky external battery packs,” explains Waiste. “The H is the first truly entirely internal artificial heart solution. It also enjoys a significant acceleration and load-bearing advantage over traditional electric solutions. In fact, at idle and under light loads, the H has enough excess horsepower to drive a supplemental AC generator powering an armpit-mounted 110v AC single-plug outlet. Patients will be able to power their own blow-dryers and portable stereos right off of the H.”

Though greeted enthusiastically by the medical community and facing a five-fold over-subscription to planned trials, the Ford heart has been the subject of much criticism in the environmental community. “This ‘heart’ is yet another attempt by the oil giants and their cronies to find a market for petro-products that gets around international emissions controls,” exclaims Frieda Gillenfour, director of the Center for Biolocomotion. “We saw the same thing for years with lawn mowers: small, extremely dirty engines that, for a time, flew below regulatory radar. Now they’re disguising their smog-belchers as medical devices, hooking patients on petroleum for life. This heart is truly evil.”

“It is true that the diesel technology behind the heart is not particularly clean burning,” admits Ford Press Liaison Burt Spunk. “But that was a design trade-off made in favor of the health of patients. The greater power of diesel combustion means that patients will be able to enjoy a completely active lifestyle. And we are looking into alternative fuels, including a tobacco-burning version where the exhaust is repurposed through a hookah pipe fed by the stack behind the ear. Phillip Morris is looking at this with us, and once we can solve the ash-waste problem, maybe with a sort of chest-mounted emptiable tray or something, we’ll be off and running.”

Sources at Ford indicate the company anticipates marketing approval for the heart by early next spring. At launch plans call for the heart to be offered with 0% financing and a 5-year, 50,000 mile power-train warranty. Price and option details are not yet available.