Technology Bulletin

Better living through biomedical polymers

At The Polymer Technology Group, Inc., surface-modifying end groups (SMEs), chemically bonded to a base polymer during synthesis, help develop a new family of biomedical polymers. Among the polymers currently being evaluated for long-term use: an electrically actuated ventricular assist device. "We have also used the SME approach to enhance a protein-permeable, immuno-isolation membrane and a hybrid artificial pancreas," says Robert S. Ward, the group's president. The biomedical polymers do not have permanent pores, making their surface much smoother than that of a typical microporous membrane. This feature is important, Ward adds, when one considers tissue reaction to the implanted material. FAX James Smith at (510) 547-5435.

Images produce windows into human thought

Neurologists at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions hope to collect unprecedented, direct measurements of human brain activity, then produce images of the flow of thought from one part of the brain to another. Using electrocortical spectral analysis (ESA), doctors can directly monitor changes in the electrical activity of millions of brain cells. Other methods, such as positron emission tomography or functional magnetic resonance, can only monitor changes in brain blood flow. New ESA data should help scientists fine-tune maps of brain activity, and perhaps reveal how separate parts of the brain work together to solve mental tasks. "We're very interested in whether one part of the thought process, such as associating a picture with a thought, has to finish its work before another can take over, such as getting the mouth to say that word," says Nathan Crone, a Hopkins neurologist. FAX (410) 955-4452.

IBM software lets engineers 'enter' CAD models

Engineers can now "walk through" 3-D computer models of aircraft, engines, and other complex designs, thanks to new 3D Accelerator software from IBM. By manipulating a mouse or Spaceball, users can control their view of a computer design initially created in CATIA, AutoCAD, or Pro/ENGINEER. Possible viewing options: 2-D or 3-D monitors, projection screens, and an immersive head-mounted display. "Imagine how much time and money a manufacturer could save by electronically inspecting highly complex mechanical assemblies before they are built," says H. Richard Pears, vice president of IBM's manufacturing unit. The ultimate goal of a life-like walk-through: eliminating expensive, time-consuming mock-ups, thus cutting the design cycle. FAX 1-800-IBM-4FAX and request document number 2153.

Wheelchair pusher gets a power assist

Japan's Asahi Technical Laboratory has marketed an electric-powered supplementary wheel to help make pushing a manually operated wheelchair easier. The device mounts on the rear of most makes of wheelchairs, according to company officials. The ancillary wheel significantly eases the effort of propelling the chair, they add, especially on a sloping road, gravel walk, or on uneven surfaces. The 7-kg device comes with a battery that lasts about eight hours per charge. It retails for $1,443. PHONE +81 053-586-8831.

More durable hydride makes its debut

A scientist at the Savannah River Technology Center (SRTC) has patented an improved composition for longer-lived hydrides, those porous materials that can absorb, store, and release isotopes of hydrogen. The patent, awarded to Leung K. Heung, involves a new

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