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Mind & Matter

 

Titanium Foam Bone Replacement

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Credit: Fraunhofer IFAM

 

The history of prosthetic design illustrates a technological trajectory of increasing sophistication and intricacy. Early anatomical replacements or augmentations were outgrowths of the crude hand-crafted or industrial fabrication methods of their time, but recent material advancements blur the distinction between the natural and artificial.

 

TiFoam for example, is a newly developed bone replacement made of titanium foam. Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute as an alternative to the solid titanium plates used to reinforce human skulls, TiFoam resembles the spongy texture and mechanical properties of real bone. Particularly notable is the fact that TiFoam marries well with adjacent bone cells and encourages their growth, such that bone spongiosa eventually merges with the material of the new implant. As a result, TiFoam patients are requested to subject modified bone to stress immediately after surgery in order to accelerate the growth process.

 

If TiFoam is indicative of a trend, one could say that the focus of prosthesis has changed from clever products to increasingly lifelike materials. Imagine if such technologies could one day transcend their current role in patching holes in order to reconstruct entire limbs?

 

 
 

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.