Titanium foam could make your bones as strong as Wolverine'sS

It's not quite an adamantium skeleton, but new titanium foam could revolutionize bone implants. The material can integrate with the patient's natural bone, reducing the stress on both the original bone and the implant and making the overall skeleton stronger.


Currently, bone implants use solid metal, most often titanium. These integrate well with the body's immune system, but they're a lot stiffer than natural bone, and this means the implant can end up carrying a lot more weight than the adjacent bone. This can cause the bone to deteriorate and the implant to get damaged and need a replacement.

That's why titanium foam is such an attractive alternative. It's spongy like real bones, and it's porous, meaning the bone can actually grow into it and intermingle, effectively merging bone and titanium into a single structure. Yes, we're pretty sure that's as awesome as it sounds. Materials engineer Yuyuan Zhao says this could actually be a preferable alternative to just letting bones heal naturally, at least in certain cases.

The titanium foam, which is made by combining polyurethane foam with titanium powder, could be most useful in reconnecting long gaps in broken bones. It hasn't yet been approved for use in humans, but its designers are currently consulting with physicians as to the best way to proceed. I just hope they're considering the all-important question of whether to make the retractable claws a standard feature or optional extra.

[New Scientist; thanks to NerD:blogOtaku for the tip!]