Medical Materials You’ll See in the Future

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The modern medical community is constantly changes. New products can changed the landscape and what is considered normal practice.  Anti-bacterial materials and products have taken over the US medical industry with a huge percentage of US medical suppliers opting for high-quality polymers that provide anti-microbial protection.

flowersFrom putties to plastics the future holds some interesting developments.  In a recent report at Medical Plastic News, they described a new flower-based product, “Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have created a type of putty that can transform over time because of an internal clock. The university team, led by professor Sergei Sheiko, tweaked the molecular structure of a conventional soft polymer to create a material that could be programmed to change shape.

Polymers feature molecules that lie next to each other and which can uncoil and slide past each other, making the material flexible. Only a small proportion of links between molecules in a polymer are permanent, which allows the material to return to its original form when stretched. The researchers found that they could modify the rate of a polymer’s shape-shifting properties, which allowed them to control how the material changed over the course of several hours. To demonstrate the material’s ability, the researchers created designs that changed shaped over time. They created a delivery box that opened on one side when it reached its destination. More impressively postgraduate student, Qiaoxi Li created a flower out of multiple parts which were activated at different times to create the effect of blooming. The effect is stunning and displays how the material can be programmed to change shape at different times and intervals.

The material could be particularly useful in biomedical engineering. Medical implants could be designed to be easily inserted into the body, before changing shape inside. The result would be a fairly non-invasive surgery.”

While inventions like this are amazing. It’s important to realize that with rapidly expanding nanotechnology, 3-D printing and ever lower barriers to entry for medical printing we have seen more smaller industries enter the once expensive and closed medical product industry.

While shape-shifting properties seem to be a little bit too futuristic to believe, it’s well supported by science. In a recent report by Natural World News, ”

Scientists have developed a new shape-shifting material that transforms into any shape at a given time. To demonstrate this discovery, the researchers created an artificial flower bud made of the same material and programmed it to bloom or change shape at a chosen time. But apart from creating the lab-grown flower bud, the material could also be used in making medical implants that adopt the right shape at controlled rates inside the body. Scientists have long started developing shape-shifting materials. However, they typically require an external trigger to start changing form, such as a change in light levels, temperature or acidity. In certain situations, external triggers are not permissible or are ineffective, especially inside the human body. With this, Sergei Sheiko, a materials scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, created a material that has an internal clock, which allows it to transform at a given time. This allows the transformation to be modified and controlled over time.”

Perhaps changes like this seem a little bit too far fetched.  While it would be great to think that we can have materials that adjust and modify themselves to their surrounding, more simple applications and solutions can be found in combining research and already existing inventions. One area that comes to mind is medical printing known as Tyvek Printers that already produce medical products known as Tyvek Tags.

We’d like to know what you think. What will be the next big materials breakthrough in 2017?