There’s a healthy forecast for high-performance materials in the medical market.

The $330 billion global medical device market is a burgeoning industry that is increasingly turning to composites for technological advances. Comprised of millions of different products to help diagnose, treat and ease the effects of disease and injury, the medical device market includes a vast range of products from simple tongue depressors and bed pans to highly complex  surgical lasers and MRI machines.

The medical device market is expected to grow 6 percent through 2017, according to DeciBio, a market research and consulting firm specializing in the medical industry. Areas where composite materials will see increasing growth include orthotic and prosthetic devices, 3D printed applications and components for large-scale MRI equipment.

But composites are used for much more than just supplementary devices. Researchers are integrating advanced materials into medical treatments, too. A glance at five applications – from cancer therapies to wheelchairs – shows the extent to which composites have penetrated the healthcare industry.

Cancer-fighting CNTs

Perfection isn’t everything – at least when it comes to carbon nanotubes and the fight against cancer. Ongoing research at Yale University demonstrates that small imperfections in the topology of carbon nanotubes may provide an optimal surface for growing cancer-fighting cells.

The researchers are using carbon nanotube (CNT) polymer composites to incubate cytoxic T-cells – nicknamed “killer cells” because these white blood cells attack and kill infected or cancerous cells. The novel technique is being tested for use in adoptive immunotherapy, an emerging treatment in which cells are removed from a patient, enhanced in the lab and then injected back into the bloodstream to boost the patient’s ability to fight infection or cancer.