Ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, paired with an alloy of cobalt and chromium, has been the material of choice for longer-lasting orthopedic implants--such as joint replacements for hips and knees. But even joints made from this material last only a decade, prompting industry to search for better materials. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (Gaithersburg, MD) along with four companies--Biomet Inc., and Zimmer Inc. (Warsaw, IN), Johnson & Johnson Professional Inc. (Raynham, MA), and Osteonics Corp. (Allendale, NJ)--designed a device to speed up the screening for new material combinations. Presently, it takes about six months for conventional equipment to simulate the natural wear of artificial hips. The new accelerated wear machine completes a screening in about a week. The device evaluates different material combinations, debris production, and changes in surface texture--resembling the wear implants are exposed to in the body. Researchers will now use the device to study how alternative materials hold up under the effects of motion, environment, and a variety of stress-loading cycles that represent the physical routines of different people. If interested in either the consortium or the device, call: (301) 975-6799.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.