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Diamonds are a doctor's best friend

British scientists have developed a way of using diamond to help make low-friction medical implants, which could also help reduce infections due to superbugs such as MRSA.

Speaking at an Institute of Physics conference in Chester, UK, Joe Franks from Brunel University, outlined a new method of coating plastics, metals and collagen with a diamond-like carbon material. According to Franks, the invention will have important applications in aerospace, engineering and medicine.

At the conference Novel Applications of Surface Modification, organized by the Applied Physics and Technology Division of the Institute of Physics, Professor Joe Franks revealed how medical implants and engineering components can be coated with a diamond-like carbon (DLC) material to make them harder wearing, reduce friction between components, and provide lightweight corrosion protection. Importantly, DLCs, unlike diamond and other coating materials, can be deposited on a surface without having to heat the component to several hundred degrees. This means plastics, as well as metals and ceramics can be coated with DLCs.

The Brunel team have developed new DLC coatings for mechanical and biomedical applications. Mechanical applications include new coatings for drill bits and abrasive materials, non-clogging tungsten carbide milling inserts for engineering applications, and more efficient, lower friction, automotive components that are more fuel efficient.

DLC coatings are also biocompatible and unlike other types of coating don't trigger the coagulation of blood. Franks reported that they have already provided surgeons at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) with DLC-coated knee implants for patients allergic to the metal used.

Professor Joe Franks said: "We've also developed coatings that can be used for catheters and various medical implants that go through the skin. The coating is important because it prevents colonization of the tissue by bacter
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Contact: David Reid
david.reid@iop.org
44-207-470-4815
Institute of Physics
19-Sep-2005


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