Novel Ferroelectric material with antimicrobial properties may change the face for biomedical implants

May 20, 2023 | Metallurgical Lab

In yet another milestone in the multi-material three-dimensional (3D) printing process, a new kind of ferroelectric composite material was developed with antimicrobial properties.

Engineers from the University of Bath and the University of Ulster in the United Kingdom innovated a material that can be used to create implants that have infection-fighting properties which makes them a good fit for biomedical applications like heart valves, stents, and bone implants.

The material came via ferroelectricity– a characteristic of specific polar materials that can generate electrical surface charges in response to changes in mechanical energy or temperature. As such, ferroelectric films and implants could create reactive oxygen species (ROS) which is a formation of free radicals due to electrical charge. ROS is capable of selectively eradicating bacteria and their possible formation.

Ferroelectric barium calcium zirconate titanate (BCZT) micro-particles embedded in polycaprolactone (PCL)— a biodegradable polymer commonly used in biomedical applications— is what made up the novel material. Then, ferroelectric particles and other component polymers are then fed into the 3D bioprinter to fabricate a specific porous “scaffold” shape designed to have a high surface area to promote ROS formation.

Researchers are able to test the material and it showed efficacy via of killing 70% of high concentrations of aggressive Escherichia coli bacteria, in just 15 minutes, without external intervention.

Hamideh Khanbareh, lead author of a paper on this work in Advanced Materials Technologies says, “Biomedical implants that can fight infection or dangerous bacteria such as E. coli could present significant benefits to patients and to healthcare providers. Our research indicates that the ferroelectric composite materials we have created have great potential as antimicrobial materials and surfaces. This is a potentially game-changing development that we would be keen to develop further through collaboration with medical researchers or healthcare providers.”

Future development on the project is geared toward exploring how the material may increase efficacy in infection-fighting, particularly with other bacteria which may thrive in distinct environmental conditions within the body.

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