The majority of medical implants are currently made of pure titanium, sometimes coated with ceramic. Up until now, researchers considered titanium to be the most wear-resistant material for implants, able to withstand the pressure that the human body places upon the bones. At the same time, titanium is biocompatible and thus safe for introduction inside the human body. Despite this, however, bone implants require replacement surgeries every decade because even titanium implants wear out regularly within a patient’s lifetime.
A new material was discovered by Professor Emilia Morosan and her team at Rice University that is expected to become the new gold standard of medical implants. This new material is an alloy of titanium and gold named beta-Ti3Au since it is composed of titanium and gold at a ratio of 3:1. This alloy is four times stronger than pure titanium and is as biocompatible as its parent ingredients.
Before the alloy is massively distributed for medical purposes, researchers need to test its purity. However, this process requires grinding the metal to powder form, a task that has been impossible to achieve since the alloy withstands abrasion even by pure diamonds.