March 18, 2010 / 6:07 PM / in 9 years

Experts design elastic iron for surgeries

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Researchers in Japan have designed a super-elastic iron alloy which they hope can be used in sophisticated heart and brain surgeries and even buildings in earthquake zones.

In a paper published Friday in the journal Science, the researchers said the metal’s super-elasticity allows it to return to its original form and gives it additional properties, such as ductility and a change in magnetization.

The iron alloy’s stress level is about twice that of nickel titanium and it can be used to deliver stents, which are tubes placed in blood vessels to stop them from collapsing.

“The stress level is very high in the alloy so it can be made into a very thin wire that can reach the inner part of the body like the brain to deliver stents,” said one of the researchers, T. Omori, at Tohoku University’s Graduate School of Engineering.

“Currently, heart stents are delivered into the body using nickel titanium but the diameter of the wire is too thick to go into the brain, so iron alloy will be the answer,” he told Reuters by telephone.

Omori said the super-elastic iron alloy may also be used for buildings in earthquake prone areas.

“This material can be used for buildings in earthquake zones. The buildings are deformed by earthquake, but super elastic alloy can return the building to its original structure,” he added.

Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Sugita Katyal

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