By: 17 August 2015
Bonelike material for use with medical devices created

Chicago researchers develop artificial, bonelike material for use with medical devices

A new approach for better integrating medical devices with biological systems has been unveiled by researchers at the University of Chicago. The team, led by Bozhi Tian, assistant professor in chemistry, has developed the first bonelike silicon spicules ever prepared via chemical processes.

In a paper published in Science, Tian and co-authors from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University describe their new method for the synthesis and fabrication of mesocopic three-dimensional semiconductors.

The team achieved three advances in the development of semiconductor and biological materials. The first was the demonstration, by strictly chemical means, of three-dimensional lithography.

In another advance, Tian and associates developed a novel chemical method that depends upon the uncanny ability of gold atoms to trap silicon-carrying electrons to selectively prevent the etching. Much to their surprise, the researchers found that even a sparse cover of gold atoms over the silicon matrix would prevent etching from occurring in their proximity. This method also applies to the three-dimensional lithography of many other semiconductor compounds.

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Further testing revealed the project’s third advance. The testing showed that the synthetic silicon spicules of the bonelike material displayed stronger interactions with collagen fibres – a skin-like stand-in for biological tissue – than did currently available silicon structures. The research team inserted the synthetic bonelike spicules and the other silicon structures into the collagen fibres, then pulled them out. An atomic force microscope measured the force required to accomplish each action.

“One of the major hurdles in the area of bioelectronics or implants is that the interface between the electronic device and the tissue or organ is not robust,” said Tian.

“The bonelike spicules show promise for clearing this hurdle. They penetrated easily into the collagen, then became deeply rooted, much like a bee stinger in human skin.”



Luo, Z., Jiang, Y., Tian, B., et al. (2015) Atomic gold-enabled three-dimensional lithography for silicon mesostructures. Science 348(6242), 1451–1455. doi: 10.1126/science.1257278.