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Exciting new composite developed by MIT researchers

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Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new composite material that could one day be used to make implants. (Image: MIT)
Dental Tribune International

By Dental Tribune International

Thu. 17 February 2022

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., US: In an exciting new development for potential 3D-printing material and conventional casting within dentistry, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have engineered a composite made mostly from cellulose nanocrystals, chains of organic polymers arranged in crystal patterns, and some synthetic polymer. They reported that the hardness of this all-organic material is comparable to that of typical aluminium alloys, and it is stronger and tougher than some types of bone.

In the study, the researchers said: “Due to their exceptional mechanical and chemical properties and their natural abundance, cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are promising building blocks of sustainable polymer composites.”

In an MIT press release, co-author Dr A. John Hart, professor of mechanical engineering, said: “By creating composites with CNCs at high loading, we can give polymer-based materials mechanical properties they never had before.” Continuing on, he noted: “If we can replace some petroleum-based plastic with naturally derived cellulose, that’s arguably better for the planet as well.”

The 3D-printed and cast the composite into coin-sized pieces of material and tested it for things such as strength and durability. In one of those tests, the researchers also moulded the composite into the shape of a tooth to show that the material might one day be used to make cellulose-based dental implants.

The study, titled “Printable, castable, nanocrystalline cellulose-epoxy composites exhibiting hierarchical nacre-like toughening”, was published online on 10 February 2022 in Cellulose.

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