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Conducting Plastics for the Bionic Man

Bionic arm

Conducting polymers provide several advantages over standard metal electrodes, and in the future they are likely to be integral in the development of the next generation of implants.

By Rylie Green

Plastics that conduct electricity could bring the bionic man from science fiction to reality.

Rylie Green is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of NSW Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Within the next decade the bionic man will make the leap from science fiction to reality. More than an exercise in science, advanced bionic devices restore quality of life to those who have lost functions through injury or disease.

Over the past 20 years cochlear implants have returned a sense of hearing to deaf patients, facilitating speech patterns in deaf children and improving the interactions of deaf adults both socially and in the workforce. Current bionic designs in development – including the bionic eye, robotic limb prostheses and brain–machine interfaces – have the ability to further improve the quality of life for millions of people globally.

The key to making these devices effective, and hence commercially viable, is the development of advanced materials that provide better functionality than materials conventionally used in medical implants. The most important factor here is the interface where a synthetic device meets the biological environment. My research aims to understand cell–material interactions and design material interfaces with bioactive components that promote the integration of living tissue and the device.

Conducting polymers are a type of plastic which is intrinsically conductive and recent research has shown that these materials are fundamental to achieving true integration between robotics and humans.


The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.