John Kang Liquidmetal | Parts for Pacemakers?

Since researchers at Caltech announced the development of Liquidmetal, it has been an area of interest to industry observers like John Kang Liquidmetal Technologies first demonstrated the material’s capabilities by incorporating it in sports equipment, but it has since found use in industries as diverse as consumer electronics and medicine. John Kang says that Liquidmetal possesses a number of unique properties that make it an ideal material for sensitive applications, such as scalpels and surgical implants. Image Source: Liquidmetal Technologies

One such application, according to John Kang Liquidmetal pacemaker parts. Most pacemakers come in housings made from specially-designed titanium alloys. Titanium is the best metal base by far for pacemakers due to its durability, workability, and biocompatibility; that is, its lack of effect on the tissue surrounding it. Typical John Kang Liquidmetal says pacemaker housings are usually machined or stamped from titanium alloy sheets, and the manufacturing process is often painstaking and very costly.

On the other hand, John Kang Liquidmetal offers the same precision and durability at a lower cost. Because Liquidmetal is amorphous, it can be molded easily and with a level of precision close to that produced by CNC tools. This allows Liquidmetal to produce pacemaker enclosure shells that will not leak when welded. This level of precision also allows pacemaker manufacturers to design and mold very complex components. However, the similarities end there – a typical machined-titanium housing costs more than $80 per unit; molded Liquidmetal pacemaker enclosures have been much cheaper to produce in tests.

Another key aspect of Liquidmetal that makes it ideal for pacemaker components is its biocompatibility. Metal parts are exposed to body tissues and fluids all the time, and the wrong type of material can cause irritation and discomfort at best and toxic effects at worst. For instance, nickel leached into the bloodstream could be carcinogenic, according to John Kang Liquidmetal, while containing the said metal, was developed to minimize leaching and irritation as it is not easily corroded by any sort of natural fluid.

Durability is another reason pacemaker manufacturers should consider Liquidmetal. Most crystalline materials, including metals, would buckle and give way under constant pressure. Liquidmetal, on the other hand, is both strong and elastic. It would withstand pressure and spring back into its original size once the pressure is removed. Says John Kang, “Liquidmetal pacemakers might be marketed first to SCUBA divers as normal pacemakers might not be able to last under high pressures underwater.” This allows pacemaker users to live active lifestyles without having to worry that their pacemakers are either leaking toxic chemicals into their blood streams or are about to break from stress.

Finally, unlike most older pacemakers, Liquidmetal pacemakers are MRI-safe. Amorphous alloys like Liquidmetal lack ferromagnetic properties. This means that an MRI machine will not magnetize a Liquidmetal pacemaker enclosure, and surgical implants made from Liquidmetal will not show up in an MRI, resulting in sharper images. In fact, Liquidmetal LM105 has been tested to be better than other titanium alloys when it comes to preventing visual anomalies in MRI images.