Features

Celtic Knot Designs Inspire Polymer Breakthrough

A slow-motion method of controlling the synthesis of polymers, inspired by trees and Celtic Knot designs, could open up new possibilities in areas including medical devices, drug delivery, elastics, and adhesives.

A new slow-motion method of controlling the synthesis of polymers opens up new possibilities in areas including medical devices, drug delivery, elastics and adhesives. (Credit: National University of Ireland, Galway)
Scientists at the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials in the National University of Ireland, Galway, say that their new polymerization technique could be used to create complex, multi-functional, branched compounds, and allow them to tailor polymer properties, such as structure, functionality, strength, size, density and degradation with ease.

The researchers use their technique to build up “Celtic Knots”, materials having chains that only link to themselves in an interlaced pattern. In addition, the new technique can also create hyper-branching polymers, which spread outwards like trees.

They say that for the first time, tree-like polymers can be synthesized in bulk, with branch points after every few monomers of the build process, which allows a far higher degree of branching than previously obtainable, and opens up new possibilities for the use of polymers for biomedical applications such as cross-linkable hydrogel materials and skin adhesives.

For more information, visit http://www.medicaldesignbriefs.com/component/content/article/16528

Space Stethoscope Makes Sound Signals Clearer

A team of engineering students at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, were challenged to design a new stethoscope to deliver more accurate heart and body sounds for NASA doctors who will be trying to assess astronauts’ health on long missions. In the average spacecraft, much of the ambient noise from fans, computers, and instruments, could interfere with a standard stethoscope’s ability to get a clear signal.

Johns Hopkins mechanical engineering students developed these components for a stethoscope to be used in a noisy space vessel. (Credit: Will Kirk/homewoodphoto.jhu.edu)
The students developed a stethoscope that uses both electronic and mechanical strategies to help the device’s internal microphone pick up sounds that are clear and discernible, even when the device is not placed perfectly correctly on the astronaut’s body. The project was developed during a two-semester mechanical engineering senior design course. The device also includes many other performance-enhancing improvements, including low power consumption, rechargeable batteries, mechanical exclusion of ambient noise, and a suction cup to allow it to adhere to the patient’s chest.

Though developed for use by NASA, the stethoscope could also be used in combat situations, where ambient noise is abundant.

For more information, visit http://www.medicaldesignbriefs.com/component/content/article/16523

Robotics Gain Insight from Seahorse Design

Sea horses get their exceptional flexibility from the structure of their bony plates, which form its armor. The plates slide past each other. Here the seahorse’s skeleton, as well as the bony plates, are shown though a micro CT-scan of the animal.
Inspired by the tail of a seahorse, which can be compressed to half its size without damage, scientists at the University of California, San Diego, are attempting to use similar engineering to create a flexible robotic gripper arm equipped with polymer muscles that could be used in medical devices. Led by materials science professors, they say that the study of natural materials can lead to new materials and structures that are stronger, tougher, lighter, and more flexible.

The researchers found that the ridge parts of the tail are the hardest, the plates are free to glide or pivot, and the joints between plates and vertebrae are extremely flexible with nearly six degrees of freedom.

They plan to use 3D printing to create artificial bony plates, which would then be equipped with polymers to act as muscles, and build a robotic arm that would be a unique hybrid between hard and soft robotic devices. The protected, flexible arm would be able to grasp a variety of objects of different shapes and sizes.

For more information, visit http://www.medicaldesignbriefs.com/component/content/article/16456.

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