Synthetic diamond scalpel at StartUp


Press, idw, 1999.04. ➜ Synthetic diamond scalpel – superior product personality. Any geometry and size and sharp to the point of no return. Ulm-based GFD Gesellschaft für Diamantprodukte mbH among the 10 best in Germany from StartUp.

Many surgeons make their incisions with diamonds. Not because it’s chic, but because it’s relevant. Very smooth cutting edges can be achieved with the diamond scalpel and small areas of fabric can be processed precisely. Its properties qualify it as the instrument of choice, especially for microsurgeons and ophthalmic surgeons. It can also show off its advantages in cosmetic surgery. Due to the conditions of the grinding and polishing process, however, only certain blade shapes are possible. And the transparency of the natural diamond blade may be a disadvantage because it reduces visibility in the tissue. It is also expensive; prices range from one and a half to six thousand marks.

So it’s a good thing that artificial diamonds are also available. Not only does it cost less than its natural-born brother. Above all, it can be shaped as required, is light-tight and does not need to be sanded. This is because it is grown, i.e. produced using the plasma CVD process by atomic deposition on a substrate. These diamond layers are called heteroepitaxial because they follow the substrate – for example silicon – in their crystal orientation. The layers are extremely smooth and sufficiently large. Dr. André Flöter, an employee of the DaimlerChrysler Research Center in Ulm, has succeeded for the first time in producing diamond layers of 20 square centimetres on silicon wafers.

Dr. Peter Gluche, who played a key role in the development of diamond-based electronic microsensors for process control and material testing in the Department of Electronic Components and Circuits at the University of Ulm, was also involved with plasma CVD-grown diamond. A product idea emerged from the meeting of these competencies in the manufacture and structuring of heteroepitaxial diamond layers – each of which is underlined by several patents: the diamond scalpel made from the synthetic counterpart of the natural material.

It soon became clear that Gluche and Flöter had hit the bull’s eye with their concept. The synthetic blade is superior to the natural diamond scalpel in all relevant characteristics. Thanks to a new and now patented process called the plasma polishing process, blades of all shapes and sizes can be produced. Reactive ions, hurled at the diamond with high energy, trigger chemical reactions and thus enable precisely defined removal of the material. Any blade geometry – “The surgeon draws the blade shape, we produce the scalpel exactly according to this specification” – is an otherwise unattainable advantage of plasma polishing. Another is that extremely thin blades can be formed down to 0.05 mm, a dimension that is even smaller than the diameter of a human hair. At 0.25 x 2.00 mm, the miniaturization of the surface has also reached extreme levels. Previously unimaginable sharpness characterizes the cutting edges of the blades, which can run out atomically. These sharpening options exceed what is required in surgical practice, as the surgeon’s hand must feel a certain minimal resistance to control the incision.

In view of this promising product personality, which has emerged from the combination of university and industrial research and whose clinical tests have been extremely successful, it was very obvious to found a relevant company: it is called “GFD Gesellschaft für Diamantprodukte mbH” and has had a successful start. The market is already large. And it is likely to increase. The synthetic diamond scalpel also facilitates the realization of new surgical techniques, such as minimally invasive surgery of the next generation, whose instruments will be reduced to catheter dimensions.

In the start-up competition “StartUp” 1999, Peter Gluche and André Flöter and their GFD Gesellschaft für Diamantprodukte mbH won first place in Württemberg out of 94 applicants, with prize money of DM 30,000. The award ceremony will take place on April 23. At the same time, they were nominated for one of the top ten places nationwide out of a total of 1,700 applicants. The decision in the national ranking will be announced on May 11 in Hamburg. The StartUp business start-up competition was launched in 1997 by the magazine “stern”, the German Savings Banks and Giro Association and the business consultancy firm McKinsey. The patron is Federal President Roman Herzog. WITec Wissenschaftliche Instrumente und Technologie GmbH, a spin-off from the University of Ulm, was already very successful in the first round of the competition in 1998. idw – Informationsdienst Wissenschaft, Peter Pietschmann, 22.04.1999