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Materials characterisation and structure - property relationships

Quantifying the “feel” of injectable biomaterials

Rheometer 2Injectable bone cements are some of the most promising solutions to the problem of bone loss. They provide a fully bioactive, resorbable solution when the repair is too extensive to be accomplished by the body alone, or autogenous bone replacement is unacceptable. These materials have been successfully used in treating maxilliofacial defects and injuries in patients around the world, but research continues on to further improve the characteristics of these materials.

Whilst their performance in the body is paramount, the characterisation of these materials doesn’t stop with the in vitro and in vivo studies showing their performance. One critical aspect of their performance is how they “feel” when they are used. The surgeon who places these cements needs a material that can be quickly directed, easily manipulated and sets within a given time.

All of the properties pertaining to the “feel” of the product, such as its ability to be sheared, how its viscosity varies with temperature, time and shear rate are examined by researchers in the Bioengineering and Health Technologies group using rheometry. The state-of-the-art rheometer measures the response of a sample when it is put under a rotational force, whilst maintaining atmospheric fidelity, quantifying the abstract descriptions given by surgeons. The bioengineering and Health Technologies group is uniquely placed as the working space is directly connected to the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital, allowing synergy between surgeons and researchers. Further to this, the group works closely with manufacturers, conveying the latest information on their products and suggesting possible routes to achieve improvements.