Sat, Sep 10, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Researchers make needles less painful, more durable

By Rachel Lin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

An international team with Taiwanese members recently submitted to the journal Scientific Reports its finding that a thin metallic glass coating on needles not only reduces pain when puncturing skin, but also increases the durability of the needle.

According to National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) professor Chu Jinn (朱瑾), metallic glass has an absence of grain boundaries, a smooth surface morphology and low surface free energy, qualities that led to the application of the substance to cellphone cases by manufacturers.

The team began research on the application of metallic glass on needles in the hopes of making injections less painful, Chu said.

Needles cause pain upon insertion because of friction, Chu said, adding that the deeper a needle is inserted, the more applied force is needed to overcome friction.

The research found that the required insertion force was reduced by 66 percent, while retraction force was reduced by 72 percent in tests using polyurethane rubber blocks, Chu said, adding that the coating achieved a low coefficient of friction of 0.05.

Experiments conducted by the team, which also included members from the University of Tokushima in Japan and the University of New Mexico in the US, found that the coating reduced friction by as much as 80 percent.

The coating also enhanced durability, with needles remaining sharp after 10 uses, the team said.

The technology could also be applied to smaller needles commonly used for local anesthetics in dental clinics or surgical needles used for sutures after surgery, Chu said, adding that larger gauge needles are lubricated to reduce friction, but smaller needles are not.

The technology could also find industrial applications outside the field of medicine, he added.

NTUST has long cooperated with the the University of Tokushima, Chu said, adding that the research combined NTUST’s expertise in mechanical engineering, materials science and electronic engineering with the Japanese university’s specialties, biology and medicine.

NTUST president Liao Ching-jung (廖慶榮) said the journal expected the research to garner an impact factor — a measure of yearly citations to an article, which can reflect its relative importance — of five, demonstrating its influence in the field.

The university plans to publish the research in other channels and seek cooperation with hospitals and factories to put the technology to use, Liao said.

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