Perspectives on New Materials

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New Developments in Material Technology are Critical to Innovations Across all Industries, Including Medical Device Technology
By Mark Montesano

New developments in material technology are critical to innovations across all industries, including medical device technology. Therefore, it is crucial for designers to stay abreast of the most recent advances that could benefit their upcoming products. In this month's Perspectives, industry leaders share their opinions on which new materials are the most exciting to them.

What new material technologies are most exciting/interesting to you for use in medical device design/manufacturing?

Thermal management technologies are a very exciting part of medical device design, as moving heat away from sensitive electronic components and ensuring reliability have emerged as key challenges. Thermal management is steadily becoming more difficult because electronics are growing in power, processing speed, and complexity, while shrinking in size. This increases thermal density and limits space for cooling solutions.

Traditionally, designers have favored passive heat transfer devices like heat sinks or heat pipes, generally made from aluminum and copper. In some instances, even silver heat sinks are used. But aluminum has limited conductivity, copper is relatively heavy (three times as heavy as aluminum), and silver, while very conductive, is expensive.

The latest thermal management approach involves heat spreaders made from annealed pyrolytic graphite, or APG. This material offers three times the conductivity of silver and is low density (30% lower than aluminum). APG is ideal for fast-cycling devices, such as gene splicers, allowing heat spreaders to respond immediately to temperature shifts of 50°C and more. APG is also an inert material that can be encased in a metal shell for added safety. All in all, APG-based thermal solutions promise to extend the existing benefits of passive thermal technology (reliability, operation in any orientation) in upcoming generations of medical devices.


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