COVID-19 Information

Dartmouth Engineers Win Funding for Biomaterials Research

October 9, 2020

By Julie Bonette

Two Dartmouth engineering professors recently received awards for research pilot projects from the New Hampshire Center for Multiscale Modeling and Manufacturing of Biomaterials (NH BioMade), which is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to advance the design and manufacture of biomaterials used in medical applications and to address industry and clinical needs. 

Professor Yan Li received more than $75,000 to fund her project, “Bio-Inspired Design and Manufacturing of Polymer-Derived Ceramics in Health Applications.” Her objective is to design new polymer-derived ceramics (PDCs) to potentially replace metallic materials in biomedical applications, as conditions in the human body can cause corrosion and degradation of metallic implants. PDCs have many advantages due to their compatibility with human tissue, thermal stability, high resistance to corrosion and thermal shock, and good electrical conductivity. Use of PDCs in health applications, however, has thus far been limited primarily due to their brittleness and uncertainties around failure behavior. 

“Compared with traditional ceramics, this material system offers great flexibility in architecture design and property tuning with reduced cost,” said Li. “The funding support from NH BioMade will help my team develop a material design space that can proactively identify PDC failure issues, make uncertainty quantification and sensitivity analyses, and advance knowledge in producing new functional PDCs while meeting safety requirements in health applications.”

Professor William Scheideler was awarded more than $70,000 to fund his project, “Design of Microporous Metal Oxide Transistors for Field-Enhanced Biochemical Sensing of the Immune Response,” in collaboration with Boston Micro Fabrication, a leader in industrial, micro-precision 3D printing. The team aims to develop porous sensors to monitor the inflammatory response to implanted biomaterials, with the goal of furthering understanding of the human immune response. Biosensors, such as these porous sensors, are key technologies for understanding the use of implanted devices in the human body and offer the potential to inform surgical procedures as well as deliver long-term information about wear, reliability, and physiological response. 

"We are finding that microscale 3D printing technologies offer a great opportunity to integrate electronic sensing into porous biomaterials,” said Scheideler. “We expect these sensors will become useful for studying the biotic/abiotic interface between living tissues and biomaterials."

In addition to Li and Scheideler, Dartmouth post-doctoral fellow Wenxing Liu, a member of chemistry professor Chenfeng Ke’s lab, received funding to partner with Qrons, Inc., for a research project entitled “3D-Printable Polyrotaxane-based Tissue Engineering with Controlled Degradability.”

The NH BioMade Research Seed Funding Opportunity provides support for faculty and post-doctoral associates at New Hampshire universities and colleges to pursue research questions related to the NH BioMade focus areas. A request for proposals (RFP) for new projects will be issued in November for awards in 2021, and researchers can sign up for notice by emailing nh.epscor@unh.edu

NH BioMade also offers grants to educators to develop and implement curriculum and training enhancements to better prepare students to enter a career or academic pathway in biomaterials or bio-related advanced manufacturing. For more information, visit nhepscor.org/education-RFP

NH BioMade is supported by a NSF EPSCoR award (#1757371).