Software for a Total Artificial Heart

Nils Brynedal Ignell

Lead software developer, Scandinavian Real Heart

Heart failure is a deadly condition affecting large amounts of people each year. Methods for heart transplantation are very sophisticated but a shortage of donors cause many patients to die while waiting for a donated heart.

Scandinavian Real Heart is developing a total artificial heart (TAH) intended to extend the patient's life until a donor heart is available. A long term goal is also to provide a total artificial heart that can be in use until the end of the patient's life.

This talk will focus on the development of the embedded software for the controller of the heart, which uses two brush-less DC motors that are powered by the controller. The software, running on two ARM microcontrollers, makes sure the heart beats with the correct heart rate and stroke volume.

To achieve this, the software uses a variety of techniques, including several PID controllers as well as a mathematical model of the motor.

In order for the software to have a high level of reliability, it is written in Ada as well as SPARK, which provides methods for statically proving key design objectives, such as proper program flow, obedience of some key functional requirements, absence of several errors such as reading uninitialized data, reading outside the bounds of arrays, unintended access of data, etc.

At this time the heart has, together with the controller and its software, been used during animal tests in living (but anesthetized) pigs and calves

About Nils Brynedal Ignell

Nils Brynedal Ignell graduated from Mälardalen University in Västerås, Sweden, in 2014 with a Master of Science in Engineering degree in the field of robotics. His educational background includes computer science, electronics, mathematics and physics. Since his graduation, Nils has worked for the consultancy firm Addiva Elektronik ( in a variety of projects including high level software development but mainly regarding software for embedded systems. This includes being responsible for the development of the software for a safety critical embedded system for industrial robotics. Since the beginning of 2017, he has been involved as a consultant in the development of the software for the control electronics of the total artificial heart that Scandinavian Real Heart ( is developing.

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