Friday, September 11, 2015

3D Printed Noses, Ears & Joints May be Coming Soon – New Hydrogel Discovery Points in That Direction

When it come to medical technology, soft robotics and drug delivery systems, hydrogels are well on their way to providing further innovation. Researchers are discovering new technologies, new mixtures, and new chemical processes each and every day. For those of you unfamiliar with what a hydrogel is, it is a soft, wet biocompatible material, defined by water molecules which are encased in rubbery polymer networks that provided it with structure and shape. Typically synthetic hydrogels are usually weak and brittle in nature, but that appears to be about to change.
In a new research report, detailed in the Journal of Advanced Materials, researchers have discover a way of creating hydrogels that are “extremely tough and robust”, while also being compatible with the encapsulation of cells within the structure itself.
So why is this so significant?
Because the materials are so tough and strong, the multitude of potential uses greatly increases. Most significantly, these materials are capable of being 3D printed, meaning that they could conceivably be fabricated in high detail, on a one-to-one basis. These hydrogels would make for the perfect solution to creating actuators for soft robotic systems, as well as drug delivery agents and 3D printable artificial cartilage. Most interesting is the idea of using these materials, to 3D print replacement joints as well as nose and ear cartilage for humans.

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