Sunday, June 21, 2009

Developing 21st Century Materials

Tim Bryant a senior researcher reports that NASA’s Langley’s Research Center has developed a new material that not only benefits the aerospace sector but may also be used to extend the quality of life. Langley Research Center’s material “Soluble Imide” or referred to as LaRC-SI is a material that is highly flexible, resistant to chemicals, and can withstand extreme hot and cold temperatures. The material is suitable to use in medicine and this includes using the material for implantable devices.

Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy or CRT is designed to coordinate the contraction of the heart’s two lower chambers and improve the heart’s efficiency to increase blood flow. LaRC-SI can be used to insulate leads to the human heart from CRT—a stopwatch-sized device implanted into the chest. Placing a lead in the heart is widely recognized by physicians as the most challenging aspect of implanting CRT devices.

Medtronic Inc., a Minneapolis-based medical technology company worked with the Innovative Partnerships Program office at Langley, and as a result, NASA licensed the patented LaRC-SI insulation technology to the company. The company saw the potential of the highly flexible resin for use in its Attain Ability left-heart lead cardiac CRT device. The insulation material is one of the thinnest left-heart leads available. Clinical studies in the U.S. and Canada showed that physicians are successful in placing the Attain Ability lead 96.4 percent of the time. In April 2009, the FDA approved a left heart lead available for use with the new Medtronic CRT.

In another project, the Air Force is exploring material research in their Air Force Research Laboratory. Researchers have invented a process called “Reactive Surface Treatment” to provide individual protection on garments from warfare agents. Multifunctional garments have been produced that are antibacterial, waterproof, and oil resistant. Use of this material is ideal for the military, first responders, and anywhere where germs and fire is a problem.

The Air Force Laboratory licensed the nanotechnology process to Alexium Ltd. Based in Cambridge, U.K with U.S. headquarters in Dayton Ohio. The company is planning to commercialize the technology internationally in their U.S. operations.

Alexium’s initial focus for the apparel is for the U.S. military to use the material for first responders so they can be protected with chemical and biological protection gear. Following this will be other diverse applications ranging from using the surface treatment on anti-infective wound dressings, nurses uniforms, and hospital bedding.