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Titanium foam is low density permeable material with high porosity. It can be found in a variety of industrial and medical applications. These include thermal insulation, acoustic and adsorption of environmental pollutants and catalyst substrates.
Researchers are currently developing titanium foams that they hope could help replace bone implants used in surgery. Currently, implanted bones need to be as flexible as natural bone. Otherwise, they can place too much stress on the bone graft and cause it to deteriorate or loosen. This new titanium foam is designed to be more like bone than solid metal and should withstand much higher loads.
The researchers developed the foams by vacuum hot pressing a blend of Ti powder with NaCl. The resulting compacts are then dissolved in water with the shape of the pore spaces determined by the size distribution of the space holder particles. In this way, the pore size distribution of the open-celled titanium foams can be controlled.
The SEM and CT images of the resulting foams show that their pores are symmetrical and properly distributed. The foams have a good compressive strength (up to 102 MPa for 50% porosity) and a low Young modulus. The yield strength for the samples processed with the space holder of narrowest particle-size distribution was lower, but this can be explained by the partial sintering of the Ti particles and formation of microporous struts. The authors of this study suggest that the yield strength can be improved by using finer Ti powder.