Dr Kate Fox

Diamond Implants

Associate Professor, RMIT University; PhD (Minerals and Materials), University of South Australia

In what is believed to be a world first, RMIT University Associate Professor Dr Kate Fox has developed diamond 3D-printed medical implants. These implants are usually made of titanium, but titanium has a surface oxide layer that makes it inert but also prevents it from bonding with hard tissue.

Although there are some temporary solutions, such as metallic implants made from materials like stainless steel or cobalt chromium, the longevity of these implants is limited and they do not last longer than 20 years.

“As the population becomes more active, recipients are receiving implants at 40, 45 years of age,” Fox said.

“They’ve got a lot of life left in them, so if you’ve got an implant that’s only going to last 15 or 20 years, that’s one, two replacements.”

“As the population becomes more active, recipients are receiving implants at 40, 45 years of age."

Dr Kate Fox

As a result, the search for long-term implants has brought Fox to diamond, which she hopes is the holy grail of biomedical implant engineering. Diamond is a carbon and bonds better with human hard tissue.

The diamond implant technology Fox has developed is novel and inventive, resulting in considerable international publicity for the project.

As an engineer, Fox’s primary goal has always been to engage with the community and promote engineering to the next generation.

She uses school visits, media commitments and science communication events to ensure that she speaks with the next generation not only about herself as a woman in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), but as a researcher, teacher and representative of RMIT.

Fox is now working with an extended team of students and academics to bring the technology to reality. With the help of a recent Ramaciotti Foundations grant, she hopes to begin patient trials within five years.

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