A keynote speaker at Inspirefest 2016 during the summer, Sinéad Kenny, co-founder of DiaNia Technologies, talked us through the importance of materials.

Nature is the answer when people ask Sinéad Kenny what materials science is all about, with evolution the clearest example of humanity’s need to borrow and adapt.

“If we were to believe Charles Darwin,” she said, “we developed from apes. We took what nature had available to us, we took the materials around us to progress.”

This, she feels, is materials science. And it has dominated our historical impact on the planet. The stone, bronze, and iron ages were all down to materials picked up and adapted, which is feeding into the current digital age.

How does this work? Take the example of traditional sufferers from back pain having to undergo invasive surgery. Surgeons cut open patients’ backs and installed metal frames to help support bones, allowing them to heal.

However, now scientists have – through working in medicine and engineering – developed a process called ‘vertebroplasty’.

For this, patients have a stent implanted, with a catheter delivering a material into their back. The stent is made out of material called nitinol, which Kenny finds fascinating. 

Words by Gordon Hunt