Advanced and nanostructured materials
Nanostructured materials are at the leading edge of current research. This is due to their inherent ability to exhibit enhanced functionality on the length scales commonly found in biological environments. Developing nanostructured materials requires careful preparation with novel methodologies and thorough characterisation. The Group are focussed not only on understanding the relationship between scale and properties, but also on how these exciting new nanostructured biomaterials can be employed to enhance human health and quality of life.
Bioceramics and glass technologies
Ceramics and glasses have been used successfully for many years in the repair of skeletal tissues in the face and mouth, chiefly in the fields of bone and tooth repair. The main challenge now is related to understanding how to improve the regenerative capability of bioceramics so that they can better stimulate healing in patients. The Group has significant expertise in research into bioglasses and ceramics as well as composite systems that use these as fillers. Biofunctional compositions have been developed, some of which have now been licensed to commercial manufacturers who have placed them on the market, benefiting patients.
Materials characterisation and structure - property relationships
Investigating the relationships between the nano-, micro- and macro-scale structures of materials and their associated mechanical and biological properties is of utmost importance when trying to engineer new biomaterials. The group has access to a wide range of state-of-the-art experimental techniques which enable our researchers to develop, test and optimise promising new materials. Electron microscopy (SEM and TEM), XRD, NMR, DLS, rheometry and Raman spectroscopy are just some of the techniques we use to characterise materials.
- Quantifying the “feel” of injectable biomaterials
Injectable 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.
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