The Future of the Medical Laboratory: Liquid Metal

HealthcareJanuary 08, 2014

One place to find the latest in technology is within the medical laboratory. The latest advances in pharmaceuticals, instrumentation and newly discovered procedures can be found here. One of the latest implementations of technology is liquid metal.Discovered at Cal Tech several years ago, it is not a new technology, but finding ways to implement it is a new science in itself.

Liquid Metal Now

Areas of interest under consideration for the use of liquid metal include orthopedics and ophthalmology. The amorphous liquid metal alloy can be sharpened better than steel, has a lesser degradation period during its use and is less expensive than diamonds. This makes the material ideal for use as a surgical blade. The alloy is twice as strong as titanium and has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than aluminum.

The initial uses of liquid metal were first identified in dental offices as a housing for dental lasers. Apple has bought the rights to liquid metal and is planning on implementing its properties into a possible new device in the future. According to the Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry, the alloy does not corrode easily, and it is resistant to both wear and water. It can be molded like plastics, but it becomes weakened above temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not a concern for medical equipment.

The Future of Liquid Metal

Liquid metal material is also bio-compatible. In the future, this may be a good device for implants, but tests are still needed to make sure that the human body will accept the alloy. There are traces of tin in the current alloy, but different types of alloys are being created using this technology. However, prosthetics are already being considered as a viable option by manufacturers.

Recently, engineers have been able to dissolve cement (mayenite) into a liquid metal alloy using lasers and an aerodynamic levitator. The result is an alloy that is resistant to magnetic fields and may prove to be an excellent source for circuit boards. It is similar to a metallic, glass substance that can be used in liquid-crystal displays, much like those used for computer monitors.

Medical laboratory technicians will find liquid metal used all around the medical laboratory; however, it is not something that they will use for the most part. It will be found more so in the equipment, devices and computers that they utilize on a daily basis. Though liquid metal is currently only being used in small devices, you never know where this technology will go in the future. 

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