The following research reminded us of Neal Stephenson’s book The Diamond Age. It seems that water and diamonds might make a perfect pair for the development of nano-engineered body implants. Or as Nanowerk‘s Michael Berger reports, polycrystalline diamond films might keep a thin layer of water as ice in the above body temperature environment, and make implantable gadgets significantly body friendlier:
With recent advances in industrial synthesis of diamond and diamond-like carbon film bringing prices down significantly, researchers are increasingly experimenting with diamond coatings for medical implants. On the upside, the wear resistance of diamond is dramatically superior to titanium and stainless steel. On the downside, because it attracts coagulating proteins, its blood clotting response is slightly worse than these materials and the possibility has been raised that nanostructured surface features of diamond might abrade tissue…
“Low-temperature and short-ranged interfacial ordering of water has been previously predicted and observed on a variety of other planar substrates, including muscovite mica, platinum, chlorine-terminated silicon, quartz, and graphite” Alexander Wissner-Gross tells Nanowerk. “However, in order to stabilize ice coatings with the nanometer-scale thicknesses relevant to macromolecular adsorption, at temperatures relevant to in vivo application, a novel substrate is needed.”
In his latest paper, written together with Prof. Efthimios Kaxiras, the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics & Professor of Physics at Harvard University, Wissner-Gross describes exactly such a substrate (“Diamond stabilization of ice multilayers at human body temperature”).
The scientific core of the Harvard scientists’ findings is that chemically-modified diamond is the strongest surface stabilizer of ice yet discovered. According to their simulations, diamond with an atomically-thin treatment of sodium can prevent ice films a few nanometers thick – the size of a very small protein – from melting at temperatures beyond human body temperature. You might call it ‘warm ice.’
Intrigued? Read on: Nanotechnology diamond ice coatings could improve knee prostheses and solar cells …
Also, check out a film made by the researchers that was a finalist in the 2007 Materials Research Film Festival.