Exploring Materials Engineering


A biomaterial is any material, natural or man-made, that comprises whole or part of a living structure or biomedical device which performs, augments, or replaces a natural function. The Society For Biomaterials is a professional society which promotes advances in all phases of materials research and development by encouragement of cooperative educational programs, clinical applications, and professional standards in the biomaterials field.

Biomechanics is a related area of engineering. Biomechanics involves the structure and function of biological systems using the methods of mechanics.

The human total hip system shown below offers a titanium, dual tapered stem design which provides a physiologic proximal load transfer, thus greatly reducing the chance of calcar resorption and distal hypertrophy. No fooling! The system provides an anatomic fit coupled with a straight stem design. The role of cartilage is played by polyethylene in this application. The reference source URL is Biomet Corporation. For more about hip replacement and conditions under which this is done, please link to the Medline plus website and learn more about hip joint replacement (many great illustrations). [Turns out, in June, 2014, the webmaster had left hip replacement and he loves that little guy! Gave back mobility that had dissipated over a rather short time. The replacement is Titanium with a ceramic ball and HDP (high-density polyethylene) cup.

For an example of a B.S. undergraduate study of orthopedic implants, please link to the following San Jose State University senior project report.


What other parts of the human anatomy can be replaced? The image on the left, from ASM-International , demonstrates other replacement parts. In this way, biomaterials are contributing to longer, higher quality lives.

Biomechanics deals with body movement and medicine. Biomechanical research is performed at many national and international universities. The Centre of Biomechanics at the Technical University of Hamburg, Germany, has high importance especially for local health care, and with speciality in the following areas: the quality of implants and medical equipment as well as the development of innovative methods to aid producers of surgical implants and equipment. Surgery methods and materials for implants are improved by the cooperation between biomechanics, materials science, mechanics, informatics, metrology and design. The image below demonstrates one example: hip joint replacement. Determination of the position of the shaft of a hip joint prosthesis in the femur at a planning station of the operating robot is shown. Corresponding to this planning, the milling of the cavitation for the shaft is done during the operation (so that one will have a tailored fit).

Both biomaterials and biomechanical expertise are needed to perform in vitro testing of spinal implants. The source of the image on the right is the Institute of Orthopaedic Research and Biomechanics at the University of Ulm in Germany. Select and open the "Research" folder on the web page.

Materials Scientists continue to develop novel surface modifications to enhance textile performance. Wettability is one important characteristic of a surface. Wettability of textile fibers can be enhanced to assist the dyeing operation during processing; and the fibers can be made to be non-wettable for application in, for example, ski clothing. PhotoLink uses wettability technology, as illustrated below, to, for instance, improve the flow characteristics of a polymer membrane used in a medical, diagnostic test kit. The reference source URL is SurModics, Inc.


Endo-vascular stents provide structural support vessels following angioplasty and other major medical procedures. After an angioplasty procedure, vessels can experience re-stenosis and eventually return to their original pre-operative diameter. In as many as 10% of the procedures, the vessels may even collapse immediately. To prevent the vessels from shrinking, endo-vascular prosthesis or stents are used. Stents are tubular structures consisting of a spring, wire mesh or slotted tubes that are deployed inside the vessel. Depending on the design and intended use (coronary/ peripheral), they can range in diameter from several millimeters to many times that size. Here, you are inside a vessel, seeing the stent in service.

The actual stent in service image is a 1995 copyright of Vital Images, Inc. and the Stanford University Department of Radiology. The reference source URL for more information on vascular and orthopaedic, mechanical integrity and durability test devices is Bose Electroforce systems. Bose Elecroforce is a manufacturer of mechanical fatigue testing equipment, with application to the biomedical and general materials industries.

Continue Tour of Commercial Material's Links to ...

Metals and Alloys
Materials Characterization
Concept of Structure
Failure Analysis

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Please send any comments to Patrick P. Pizzo, Professor Emeritus of Materials Engineering.

Created by Dr. Pizzo on August 1, 1997.

Last Revision, December 31, 2014