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Syntactic Foams

Discussion in 'General Issues and Discussion Forum' started by wdd, Sep 28, 2011.

  1. wdd

    wdd Well-Known Member

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    While visiting the bar, at a recent conference, I overheard an adjacent group discussing open and closed cell foams their different properties and how, in a very limited way, they mimic the shock absorbtion characteristics of the skin and subcutaneous soft tissues. During the conversation someone mentioned syntactic foams.

    From what I understand syntactic foams seem to take things to a higher level of sophistication, ie they can be designed to mimic, more closely, the mechanical characteristics of the skin and subcutaneous soft tissues, ie the adipose tissue of the hypodermis.

    The essential similarities and differences between open cell foams, closed cell foams and syntactic foams seem to be:

    Open call, closed cell and syntactic foams include a matrix the structure of which creates cellular spaces within the foam.

    In open cell foams the cells communicate with one another and are therefore filled with air. Shock absorbtion is almost exclusively the result of the deformation characteristics of the matrix and is only slightly affected by the air within the cells which, during deformation, is pushed from cell to cell offering little resistance to the deformation.

    In closed cell foams the cells formed within the matrix material do not communicate with one another and are commonly filled with nitrogen. Deformation of the cells results in an increase of the pressure within the cells which will be transferred to the matrix material.

    Syntactic foams also consists of a matrix which forms cellular spaces. The essential difference between syntactic foams and open and closed cell foams is that the cellular spaces are filled with microballoons (as the name suggests they consist of an outer covering filled with gas just like a balloon but very small). The matrix and microballoons can be made of a wide range of different materials and the dimensions of all of the components can be varied to suit the required mechanical characteristics.

    In the discussion I think the matrix and microballoons were made of different types of silicone. Apparently the mechanical characteristics of the silicone matrix were designed to match those of the fibroelastic matrix surrounding the adipose cells in the plantar pad and the microballoons were designed with similar characteristics to plantar fat cells.

    I have found some general information about syntactic foams on the web but nothing specific to their podiatric application.

    Has anyone any experience of syntactic foam or know where it can be bought and how much it costs, etc?

    Bill Donaldson
  2. wdd

    wdd Well-Known Member

    Wrong end of the stick

    I've just had a phone call.

    It seems that by only listening to the second half of the conversation (see above posting) I have added one and one and got three. Totally unlike me to do such a thing.

    Anyway, it seems that the other group's conversation was initially concerned with one of their member's views of a divide, within the profession. The sexy, high status upper end including surgery, biomechanics, diabetes and the no sex, low status, bottom, including the drudge of cutting, thinning and clearing nails and reducing callus and corns.

    While they were debating this, someone in my group was recounting a somewhat lascivious tale of certain podiatrists (you know who you are) based loosely', it seemed to me, on something from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I take it as a sign of my mental health that I only started eaves dropping the neighbouring conversation after the aforementioned story was finished. I also take it as a sign of the professions health that such a tale could be told about podiatrists.

    Apparently someone, in the other group, had been arguing that one manifestation of the low status associated with the management of corns and callus was the relatively low tech. materials used in their (corn and callus) management.

    Syntactic foams came into the discussion as an indicator of low status in that although the science to produce more sophisticated and appropriate materials, eg syntactic foams, already existed they wasn't even being looked at by the profession, let alone being developed for podiatic use.

    I hope the day will soon come when someone can tell me where I can get syntactic foam or something like it for use in podiatry.


    PS Maybe if I had put this thread into the Biomechanics rather than the Gerontology forum I might have got a more enthusiastic response?

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