Nanotechnology & Medical Device Development
The production of medical devices using systems and methods of nanotechnology is just getting underway. A National Science Foundation Nanosystems Engineering Research Center to investigate and do basic research on self-powered health monitoring will be led by North Carolina State University. The software is called ASSIST, for Integrated Sensors and Technology Advanced Self-Powered Systems.
In daily life, medical devices have become indispensable and serve growing demand. Medical device applications range from big devices (e.g. heart-lung machines) to diagnostic instruments such as software and implants, injection needles and to name a few, mechanical contraceptives. The compatibility of the materials utilized to create medical devices with the biological surfaces they encounter is of high importance, especially for the use of such devices at and within the human body.
An indispensable aspect of the field of medical devices is nanotechnology. With nanotechnology, the extremely small size of batteries (e.g. pacemakers) or electronic circuits and sensors used in medical devices today has been made possible. New teeth-filling ceramics or dental implant screws are increasingly made up of materials derived from sintered nanopowders (comparable to 3D printing) or have a specially built surface made of so-called nanostructures.
Supported over five years by an NSF grant of $18.5 million, the goal is to build nanoscale sensors powered by the body’s own energy, thus removing the need for battery power. The sensors would be built into wearable devices, such as patches or wristbands, which would provide continuous monitoring of heart rate, respiration rate, and other measures of health, as well as environmental pollutant exposure monitoring.
This news is representative of where the design and production of medical devices are going. While the program is just getting underway and the technology is in the very early phase of testing, Forma hopes to actively contribute by helping to conceptualize what these devices might become and how the nanotechnology might be packaged in future medical devices.