UL has a long and proud history of working with industry. Among these is Prof Tofail Syed, whose work with Cook Medical on the development of alloys for medical devices has resulted in the development of specialised medical devices. “We developed a completely new metallic alloy, nickel titanium, for use in minimally invasive medical devices such as guidewires for stents and catheters which are used when a patient is under X-ray,” he explains. “It’s absolutely critical for the surgeon to be able to see the device when they are using it but the problem is that the alloys used can’t be seen well under X-ray. Our challenge was to find an alternative which was patentable,” says Prof. Syed. “What we found was that the problem hadn’t been approached from a fundamental science point of view. We asked what makes the alloy visible. We brought our understanding of the problem and the physics involved and found a different solution using a specific group of elements in the alloy.”

Syed and his team showed that the visibility under X-rays, of these elements was equal to that of platinum despite being less than half as dense. They then had to make the alloy in a workable form. Using the facilities in the Bernal Institute, Prof. Syed and his team were able to fabricate the alloy in-house. Cook Medical are now in the process of producing the alloy as wires on a large scale for use in manufacturing. Successes such as this enable the Institute to build its expertise and establish an international reputation for excellence in key priority areas.

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