A team of researchers, chemists, and scientists recently created a new medical-grade biotech material that is being called a graphene hybrid. The material is made by combining standard graphene-based nanoparticles with hydroxyapatite (HAp). For anyone unfamiliar with hydroxyapatite, it is a ceramic derivative commonly used in medical and dental implants. Once graphene is combined with hydroxyapatite it forms to create a highly durable material that could potentially last longer than any biotech material currently on the market. The material is also completely non-toxic and it is safe for nearly all types of surgical applications, including open heart or brain surgery.
Problems With Non-Graphene Biotechnology
Over the last decade, the leading biotech implant material available is biometallic. Biometallic materials are commonly used in dental implants, stents, and even pacemakers. The downside to using biometallic materials is that in some cases it can corrode quite quickly, especially if it is heavily exposed to bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, or water. Once biometallic corrosion occurs it can leak particles into the surrounding tissues and into the bloodstream, causing inflammation, toxicity, and even death in high doses. Another major downside to biometallic materials is that they have a high thermal expansion rate which is known to cause nerve pain.
Ways Graphene Can Improve Biotechnology
It’s Non-Corrosive: One of the biggest benefits to using graphene in biotech materials is that it is non-corrosive, so there is zero risk of it ever causing toxicity, blood poisoning, or tissue inflammation. With zero risk of corroding, graphene can be used in medical applications where standard biometallic materials are prohibited. That means that graphene has a much broader application range. It could be used in artificial heart valves, dental implants, artery stents, and more.
It Has a Low Thermal Expansion Rate: Most biotech materials such as biometallic substances have an extremely high thermal expansion rate. What that means in layman’s terms is that biometallic materials will rapidly expand in size and temperature any time they are exposed to prolonged periods of high heat. Graphene, on the other hand, isn’t easily affected by hot temperatures that would be experienced within a human body. That means the risk of thermal expansion for graphene is very low.
Graphene is Non-Ferromagnetic: Some biometallic materials are ferromagnetic in their composition, meaning they create a magnetic reaction. Ferromagnetic materials used in biotech applications are less than ideal due to the fact that once these items are implanted into the body, the person receiving them cannot ever undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Graphene, on the other hand, is completely non-ferromagnetic, meaning it does not possess any magnetic quality.
It’s Cheaper to Produce: Another major advantage to using graphene materials in biotechnology is that it is substantially cheaper to produce than any other biotech material. In many cases, graphene is up to 100 times cheaper to produce. Biometallic materials, for example, are extremely expensive to produce due to the fact that the substances needed to make it require finite metallic resources. Graphene is like plastic in the sense that it does not rely on finite resources in order to be mass-produced.
It’s More Durable: Some early tests have found that graphene infused with hydroxyapatite creates an end material that could be up to 100 times stronger and more durable than the strongest non-graphene biotech materials currently on the market. What this implies is that the risk of a graphene biotech application malfunctioning is very low. It also indicates that most graphene-based biotech materials could be implanted into the human body for life, with no replacement ever needed.