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Rigid, porous titanium foam   (Source: Fraunhofer IFAM)
Titanium foam is just as flexible and rigid as real human bone

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden have developed a new implant that has a structural configuration just like the inside of a human bone, but is made out of titanium foam

Dr.-Ing Peter Quadbeck of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing and Advanced Materials is lead developer of the "TiFoam" project and has created a titanium foam implant that is rigid and flexible like a real human bone. Most importantly, it allows ingrowth into surrounding bones. 

Other massive bone implants have not worked in the past because they contained characteristics that are different from the human skeleton, such as stiffness. Massive bone implants that are not flexible like a real human bone causes more stress to be put on the implant instead of the adjacent bone, which, as a result, could lead to the deterioration of that bone.

Bones that are exposed to lesser strains normally have lesser bone density. Stress on the bone "stimulates the growth of the matrix." Also, the rigidity of real bones allows blood vessels and bone cells to grow in the pores and channels this shape offers. So while these stiff implants can be good for defects in load-bearing bones, they do not promote ingrowth to surrounding bones because they are neither flexible nor shaped rigidly like real bones.

The secret behind the new titanium foam implants is a foam-like structure that resembles spongiosa inside human bones, and a powder metallurgy-based molding process that consists of open-cell polyurethane (PU) foams being saturated with a solution that contains a binding medium and a fine titanium powder. The powder adheres to the foams cellular structures, and the binding agents and the PU are vaporized. The end result is a "semblance of the foam structures, which is ultimately sintered."

"The mechanical properties of titanium foams made this way closely approach those of the human bone," said Quadbeck. "This applies foremost to the balance between extreme durability and minimal rigidity."

This careful balance allows the forces of weight and motion to sustain, the forces of stress to be transmitted, the formation of new bone cells and healing of the implant. Doctors may be able to use this new material to bond implants to patient's bones more efficiently and on a more stable basis.

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I totally want new bones
By PAPutzback on 9/23/2010 5:24:47 PM , Rating: 2
Can't they throw in some stem cells and get the body to fill in the rest with marrow, nerves and blood vessels.

RE: I totally want new bones
By InternetGeek on 9/23/2010 5:29:17 PM , Rating: 3
I think that's the point ;)

RE: I totally want new bones
By Orchunter on 9/23/2010 5:48:47 PM , Rating: 5
And substitute Titanium with Adamantium ;)

RE: I totally want new bones
By dani31 on 9/24/10, Rating: -1
RE: I totally want new bones
By ipay on 9/24/2010 12:59:00 PM , Rating: 2
It's all good until you have to step into an aeroport. Or face Magneto...

RE: I totally want new bones
By SoCalBoomer on 9/23/2010 7:27:26 PM , Rating: 2
That seems to be the "go to" solution for anything - throw in some stem cells. . . you realize that very few actual treatments have been developed so far? Bone marrow is one, but that still needs a framework within which to grow. . .

You can't just toss in some stem cells and expect them to magically make a bone or liver or brain. . .

RE: I totally want new bones
By Ranari on 9/23/2010 8:24:39 PM , Rating: 2
And the fact that stem cells can also turn cancerous. It's not as simple as injecting and everything is okay.

RE: I totally want new bones
By FITCamaro on 9/24/2010 6:44:07 AM , Rating: 5
Sucking stem cells out of the neck of unborn fetuses worked for Christopher Reeve and helped him take on the evil Hackman.

RE: I totally want new bones
By Noya on 9/24/2010 4:26:47 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, but your weak muscles and joints connective tissue would still hold you back.

By InternetGeek on 9/23/2010 5:31:19 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone knows if a similar structure could be used in cars, planes or buildings?

RE: Question
By amanojaku on 9/23/2010 5:43:24 PM , Rating: 3
Yes and no. Yes, because it is doable. No, because obtaining titanium is expensive, therefore large structures would cost too much to build.

On a different note, you gotta love the latest innovation from the group (Fraunhofer Society) that created the MP3!

RE: Question
By jive on 9/24/2010 1:18:58 AM , Rating: 2
well they do cars from carbon fiber, which is even more difficult to manufacture. The process of infusing the PU model with titanium and then bake it bears resemblance to casting which in turn is the way to manufacture very large components.

I think the only problem is the availability of titanium not the process nor the cost. There are plenty of titanium in earth crust but most of the rich deposits are located in Russia and the titanium is classified as a strategic material.

RE: Question
By EJ257 on 9/24/2010 9:09:27 AM , Rating: 2
It's the manufacturing process for titanium that is expensive. The actual base material you get out of the ground is pretty abundant and pretty much everywhere. White paint is pigmented with titanium dioxide. Granted Russia does have some sizable deposits. Heck they've made an entire fleet of submarines out of it. It is when you need to process/refine it, blend it with other metals to form alloys that is when it gets expensive. The high melting point of Ti makes it difficult to work with.

RE: Question
By eggman on 9/24/2010 3:24:17 PM , Rating: 3
The melting point of titanium is not much different from steel or even some aluminums. The reason is it used in aircraft is that it weighs similar to aluminum and it maintains its strength at much hight temps that steel or aluminum. You are right about the processing however. Titanuim is very difficult to machine.

RE: Question
By fteoath64 on 9/24/2010 2:44:38 AM , Rating: 2
In cars, it would be expensive. However, in buildings there are similar natural fibers with such properties but has not really taken hold in the building industry. Again, the slight cost factor is always a deterrent to using something better. This is a real shame as progress has been stunted due to plain economics. It does show that humankind is enslaved by money ..... pity, we ought to be way smarter than that.

they've been doing this for some time
By Bubbacub on 9/23/2010 6:17:14 PM , Rating: 5
i'm an orthopaedic surgeon - we've been using metals with a titanium (and many other metals) porous foam structure for decades in uncemented hip and knee (and many other joints) arthroplasty.

given that the youngs modulus of this material is apparently similar to bone then i very much doubt that its resistance to failure from repetitive cycles of loading is.

its quite easy to make a very stiff strong thing from metal and its also easy to make a bendy weak thing. its pretty hard (?impossible with current material science) to make something as bendy,as strong and with as long a lifespan under repeated cycles of loading as bone that is also biocompatible.

p.s. if i'm wrong i would love to be corrected!

By zephyrprime on 9/24/2010 1:14:09 PM , Rating: 2
Titanium foams currently used are a sintered powder of titanium I believe. The structure of this substance is like the inverse of that. Everywhere where there is a void in current sintered powder that is metal in this, every there is metal in a current sintered powder there is a void in this.

wow.. totally read that wrong
By kattanna on 9/23/2010 5:28:02 PM , Rating: 2
i must be really tired cause i totally read that headline wrong and was left thinking, wouldnt titanium implants be a bit too perky?

all point, no bounce?

RE: wow.. totally read that wrong
By amanojaku on 9/23/2010 5:31:06 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, it's been a long day. At first I thought "goodbye, Viagra!"

We can make him better than he was
By rcc on 9/23/2010 5:22:27 PM , Rating: 2
Better, stronger, faster....

Gooooo team.

By LRonaldHubbs on 9/23/2010 8:25:27 PM , Rating: 2
Flesh is a design flaw.

One step closer to Shadowruns
By Despoiler on 9/23/2010 6:01:08 PM , Rating: 2
Titanium Bone Lace..YUS!

Real Doll
By kontorotsui on 9/23/2010 6:20:46 PM , Rating: 2
Ok now they can make an even more realistic Real Doll

foam metal
By Ammohunt on 9/24/2010 2:58:30 PM , Rating: 2
metal foam is easy to make in zero gravity. A private company could cash in by building an orbital factory producing products like foam steel.

By GeorgeOu on 9/24/2010 3:49:09 AM , Rating: 1
Forget titanium, I'll wait for the Adamantium upgrade

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