Researcher Alexander Wissner-Gross let us know of his and advisor Efthimios Kaxiras’s work at Harvard on modeling how to enable stable, very thin ice layers at body temperature. They modeled ice sitting on a layer of sodium attached to diamond, and sure enough, it’s doesn’t melt. It’s speculated that such an ice layer might make diamond-toughened medical implants more biocompatible, but even if that doesn’t work, it’s a cool result (pun intended).
From New Scientist:
Thin diamond coatings are found in a growing number of wear-resistant medical implants, such as prosthetics, artificial heart valves and joint replacements. However, diamond can causes clotting by attracting coagulating proteins. Also, its hardness often results in more tissue abrasion than with other implant materials. Ice could lessen these effects by offering a biocompatible interface of water molecules.
Now, Alexander Wissner-Gross and Efthimios Kaxiras have calculated that these problems could be overcome by bonding a layer of sodium atoms to the diamond surface first.
This sodium layer would sustain a layer of ice around 2 nanometres thick at 37°C (human body temperature), thus providing a biologically compatible “barrier” to the diamond itself.
Don’t miss the video; while scientifically interesting, the music and Star Trek style scrolling text make it fun also. —Christine