Bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) have been in the news because of Apple's research into their potential for consumer electronics devices, writes Doug Smock in Plastics Today. BMGs also have significant potential to create injection mold inserts with nanoscale features, making the materials suitable for constructing lab-on-chip devices that could handle and test samples containing single cells and viruses or large biomolecules.
Smock cites an article published in Materials Today, in which Michael Gilchrist, David Browne and colleagues at University College Dublin describe the potential for BMGs, which were discovered at CalTech about 30 years ago. The exotic metals can form amorphous structures, allowing them to be injection molded like plastics. Moreover, they can be machined with microscopic precision below the grain size of conventional metals and retain the strength and durability of normal metals.
Gilchrist and his colleagues showed how microscopic features can be machined on to the surface of a BMG. The tool steel typically used in molds cannot be machined with better than 10-micrometer precision because of its crystalline grain structure.
For more about this technology, read "Metallic glass inserts eyed for 'lab-on-chip' microfluidics" on plasticstoday.com.
On a related note, you also may want to read MD+DI Associate Editor Jamie Hartford's article on Liquidmetal, the commercial name for a number of amorphous liquid metal alloys, which has already been used in a couple of medical products.