Biomaterials

A biomaterial is any matter, surface, or construct that interacts with biological systems. The development of biomaterials, as a science, is about fifty years old. The study of biomaterials is called biomaterials science. It has experienced steady and strong growth over its history, with many companies investing large amounts of money into the development of new products. Biomaterials science encompasses elements of medicine, biology, chemistry, tissue engineering and materials science.

Biomaterials can be derived either from nature or synthesized in the laboratory using a variety of chemical approaches utilizing metallic components or ceramics. They are often used and/or adapted for a medical application, and thus comprises whole or part of a living structure or biomedical device which performs, augments, or replaces a natural function. Such functions may be benign, like being used for a heart valve, or may be bioactive with a more interactive functionality such as hydroxy-apatite coated hip implants. Biomaterials are also used every day in dental applications, surgery, and drug delivery. E.G. A construct with impregnated pharmaceutical products can be placed into the body, which permits the prolonged release of a drug over an extended period of time. A biomaterial may also be an autograft, allograft or xenograft used as a transplant material.

Materials scientists are currently paying more and more attention to the process inorganic crystallization within a largely organic matrix of naturally occurring compounds. This process typically generally occurs at ambient temperature and pressure. Interestingly, the vital organisms through which these crystalline minerals form are capable of consistently producing intricately complex structures. Understanding the processes in which living organisms are capable of regulating the growth of crystalline minerals such as silica could lead to significant scientific advances and novel synthesis techniques for nanoscale composite materials—or nanocomposites.

(Source: Wikipedia, April 23, 2012: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomaterial)