Can “Boiling Stone” Replace Titanium, Stainless Steel and PEEK?
We get a lot of PowerPoints crossing our desk.
A couple weeks ago we read one about a ‘boiling stone’ that is intended to replace titanium, stainless AND PEEK in spinal and other orthopedic implants.
The PowerPoint was a preview of an upcoming North American Spine Society (NASS) presentation (September 29, 2018 in Los Angeles) and it came from a small Texas-based R&D company.
We were surprised at how strong the data was. If the data we saw is both accurate and holds up under scrutiny, then titanium, stainless steel and PEEK suppliers should be concerned—and manufacturers should visit these guys at NASS to get the lowdown in person.
We called the young company (DiFusion Technologies, Inc.) to ask permission to share their pre-NASS data and we found some old industry hands were funding and managing this little company. (More about them later.)
The CEO, Derrick Johns, gave us permission and, yes, he confirmed, his company intends to replace titanium, stainless steel and PEEK with an entirely new implant material.
Here’s the preview. After you read this, let us know what you think. Could this be the most important new implant material since PEEK?
In 1756 Swedish mineralogist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt heated a stone he thought was stilbite (calcium sodium and aluminum silicate) and, much to his surprise, it began emitting clouds of steaming water! The rock ‘boiled’ so Cronstedt named it zeolite, from the Greek word for "to boil" and líthos, meaning "stone."
Since then zeolite rocks have become extremely popular due to their microporous aluminosilicate structure as industrial strength absorbents and, because of zeolite’s unusual propensity to attract positive cations via its negative charge, a near universal catalyst.
Zeolite’s ions are loosely packed which means that this material will readily go dancing with other materials. Commercially zeolite is, literally, everywhere. Like laundry detergent. It bonds with dirt and removes it.
In medicine it’s used in oxygen concentrators to capture oxygen from the atmosphere, trap the impurities and kick out highly purified oxygen. It’s an extremely effective hemostatic agent known as QuikClot. It’s a source of slow releasing potassium. Since it’s also loaded with ammonium, it can slow release nitrogen for agricultural use. It can absorb up to 55% of its weight in water and then slow release it.
Because of its affinity for positive ions, zeolite integrates with a wide variety of other atoms, so it can incorporate with such minerals as germanium, iron, gallium, boron, zinc, tin, titanium and PEEK.
Computer calculations have predicted that millions of hypothetical zeolite structures are possible.
Including, apparently, a more versatile and biologically active yet also structural robust orthopedic and spine implant material.