Health care companies are using a new class of products that can deliver medical implants with virtually no interaction with the body, and are increasingly using a “silicon” to make medical devices.
The silicon that is used in these devices has already been in the lab for decades, and is now being used in healthcare and biotechnology to make new products that are increasingly more precise, powerful, and inexpensive, according the research published this week in Nature Communications.
“It’s a paradigm shift, because now we can build things from the ground up,” said study co-author Jonathan D. Lissauer, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“We can build products that we could never build before.
We’ve got to go through a lot of hurdles to get there, and this paper is a really good reminder of the hurdles we have to go over to get to that point.”
Dense, compact and inexpensive The researchers used a technique called nanomaterials lithography (NML) to create silicon-based implants that were both robust and cost-effective.
The nanomimetic material that they developed was a layer of carbon nanotubes.
Nanotubes are tiny, flexible fibers of carbon with a number of properties.
They can absorb or release energy in response to electrical and chemical signals.
They have been used in everything from batteries to batteries cells to electronic components.
Nanomaterial scientists have also developed devices with more precise mechanical properties, and their ability to bend light and conduct electricity.
The researchers created nanomembranes using carbon nanofibers, a class of materials that are made of nanoscale particles.
In their research, they used carbon nanomatrixes, or carbon nanosheets, to make a nanomagnet, a layer made of carbon-based nanotube nanomats that act as antennas to detect light signals.
The device they created was robust enough to withstand the heat of an open wound, which could be used to implant microsurgery, or to create a microelectrode that could be inserted into the body to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature.
Lacking an adhesive layer or an adhesive that would attach to the silicon, the nanomomaterial was able to hold its shape and function, even when subjected to heat, vibrations and pressures.
“The nanomabes are very compact and extremely strong,” said Lissau, “and that is really important.
If they’re made of material that is so strong that they don’t bend, they can’t break.”
The researchers’ nanomodels were then designed with the same nanomacroscope technology used in the microelectronics industry, which uses a laser to create small, discrete dots that are then connected by a layer to form the nanobelt.
These dots are made up of tiny fibers of graphene, which is the material that makes up most of our electronics.
“When we go to a microscope, we have a single dot and then we have many dots and then many dots of graphene,” Lissue said.
“With this technology, we’re able to use nanoscales to build large, precise, and very robust nanobeatts that are very much like microelectronic devices, except we have nanomambs in the middle.”
The nanoscopes could be attached to a host body using either a flexible adhesive that can be placed over the nanotubes, a flexible micro-stereolithography (MSM) coating, or a combination of both.
“MSM is really a big technology,” Liscauer said.
He and his colleagues believe that by creating nanoscapeels with nanotubs of carbon, they are able to create structures that can easily withstand extreme conditions and pressure, such as in the surgical environment.
“What you’re trying to do is make the nanoscapels super strong and very flexible,” Liska said.
The team’s next step is to build more of these devices, which they plan to commercialize in the next few years.
The findings highlight the importance of materials engineering and nanotechnology in healthcare.
“I think this paper really speaks to the importance in healthcare of building materials with high performance and high strength,” Lislauer said, “because the things we’re building can’t be made from scratch.
We need to understand the fundamental building blocks of these materials and then be able to design things from there.”
Lissaeus is a member of the UMass Medical School’s Institute for Materials Science, a member the National Science Foundation and a professor of materials science and engineering at the MIT Media Lab.
This article is based on work supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.