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Materials Advances Revolutionizing Medical Devices
September 10, 2013
2 Min Read
Novel textiles could be a boon for medtech manufacturers. The advantages of these high-tech fabrics include high-durability, ultra-high strength, antimicrobial properties and more.
Kuraray (Tokyo, Japan) pioneered the development of liquid crystallinity technology for polymer-based materials. Since liquid-crystal polymers can naturally arrange themselves to form crystals, these polymers have higher strength than traditional polymers made from randomly-ordered molecules. As a result, fibers created through this technique have very high strength. For example, a cord made from 100,000 threaded strands of this polymer would have a diameter of a pencil and could carry a weight of eight tons.
One potential use of these advanced polymers is in the development of prosthetics. Since traditional prosthetics are manipulated through the use of guide wires, a high-strength polymer string could increase the durability of an artificial arm or leg. In addition, this material, branded as Vectran, does not readily stretch. Because of this, it can be used to ensure precise gestures by a robotic arm or hand. In addition, the material could be used to enhance the precision of robotic surgical systems.
Another material, first tested at the Pirogov Hospital (Sofia, Bulgaria) could reduce the risk of hospital infections. The material, impregnated with zinc oxide nanoparticles, is woven into bedding and pajamas. Since zinc oxide has antimicrobial properties, it resists the growth of pathogens. According to one early study, patients who used materials impregnated with zinc oxide suffered from fewer infections than those who received regular bedding and pajamas.
To make this material, researchers at the Bar-Ilan University Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (Ramat Gan, Israel) used ultrasound to create 10-micron-diameter momentary voids in a liquid solution with zinc. As these momentary voids collapsed, they heated up and shot tiny particles of zinc oxide into fibers of cotton placed nearby. The European Union backed the development of this technology with $11 million, hoping to reduce hospital-caused infections.
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