Thursday, March 20, 2008

Magnets came in, stir bar sample on the way

Package tracking showed my magnets came in, but were delivered to the wrong address! They went to my old apartment, which luckily was near my workplace. I picked the box up at lunch, and in 2 vials were the two types of magnets I ordered.

In the time following my order to United Nuclear, I found out that most companies simply will not coat magnetized magnets provided by a third party. As such, the magnets that came in are now just for fun. I got 6 x .25" spheres and 50 of the discs I was planning to get coated for implant. With the larger magnet I can make the small disc move and rotate from a considerable distance. Very promising!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spoke with body artist, got an email from an expert, responses from parylene company

After work yesterday I went to a local well-respected tattoo and piercing shop. The body artist was very familiar with the magnet implants. I discussed the new coating technique and he agreed that if I could prove that it was safe for implantation he would do it.

I received a reply from Jesse Jarrel, who had initially given me the idea of parylene coating via his quote in an article awhile back. He did not know of anyone that had used parylene for a magnetic implant, but said that he sends implants to get coated with parylene. He also noted that there are parylene and teflon coated magnetic stir bars for laboratory purposes that could be viable. He also took me up on an offer to send him some coated magnets for him to check out.

After being tipped off by Mr. Jarrel I found a single company that encases rare-earth magnets with layers of teflon AND parylene for the purpose of stirring devices. I contacted them for information, and if the price is right this may be the best option yet!

My only worry is running in to minimum order/lot size as I have with the parylene coating companies. It's a lot like the scene in Batman Begins, where Alfred and Bruce are forced to buy prototype bat-masks by the thousands. To just get one prototype magnetic implant, I may end up with many MANY extras.

Still, all the pieces are coming together and I'm getting very excited!

Planned Experiments

Having read and re-read the personal accounts of people who have lived with magnetic implants, it is very apparent that a variety of things can be sensed with them. It seems to depend on the person more than anything, ranging from 'feeling tingling around power transformers' to 'exploring the field around an object.' (There is a good range of explanations in this article.)

I would like to take it a step further. In addition to my observations of fields in the wild, I would like to conduct experiments using field generating equipment to determine the actual range of frequencies and intensities able to be experienced.

I have access to signal generators, spectrum analyzers, and oscilloscopes along with the expertise of several close friends, so I'm certain we can come up with suitable (and safe) testing methods. Much of the work could be done with an implant unit by itself, but it will really only provide a comparison to feelings experienced by the person with the implant (in this case myself.)

Experimenting will certainly have many benefits:
  • It will allow a fuller range of fields to be experienced. In the US our environment is rich with fields oscillating at 60 hertz, the frequency at which AC power is distributed. This means that the great majority of fields sensed in the wild will be 60 hertz. By using equipment to generate higher and lower frequency fields one could explore the full range and feeling that the implant could offer.
  • It will allow identification of potentially dangerous fields. It is possible that fields of certain frequencies and amplitudes could be dangerous upon exposure. While it is unlikely that such fields will be encountered in the day-to-day world, it will be helpful to know if there are just some things to avoid. For example: An MRI machine's superconducting magnets would certainly rip an implant out of the skin from a considerable distance. Will other types of fields pose threats?
  • It will provide scientific backing to the "sixth sense." By exploring the science behind the phenomena, we can demonstrate mathematically what is happening to the implant under influence from an EM field. This can lead to improvement of the implant shape, strength and orientation. It can also be the first step to catching the interest of a company with means to take the implant to the next level. Would you want one if they were FDA approved?
  • It will be fun! I'm an engineer, this kind of stuff is fun to us!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Coating Hunt Part 3

The magnets from United Nuclear have shipped.

An article by Shannon Larratt mentions an individual who has a custom titanium encapsulated magnet. This could also be a direction to look in to. According to him, the implant has not resulted in complications, but he has reported it losing sensation. He also mentions the purchase of special Syringe used to implant RFID tags into pets, which may be much less invasive than scalpel and pocket implantation method.

As far as Parylene coating services...
Apparently coating a single magnet at a time is not very practical, but magnetized magnets would most certainly stick to each other resulting in an unsuccessful coating. Some have the facilities to produce unmagnetized magnets then coat and magnetize them, others can coat magnetized magnets. Some can't handle magnets at all.

It was suggested at some point by one company to demagnetize, coat, then remagnetize the magnets. A conversation with a coating company today led me to believe that demagnetizing a powerful magnet would permanently damage its structure.

...So that idea is out the window for now.

So far of the companies I have contacted:
Three companies I have contacted have responded with estimates, another has promised one by email.

One company has said they are incapable of doing it.

The rest have not responded to my request for information.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Implant quantity and placement

I'm planning to start with a single implant. Since the coating has never been tried in this application (at least not that I know of) I want to have any failures happen in a single location, rather than multiple ones. As far as placement, I have decided upon the ring finger of my right hand. I decided to do so based on several general ideas:

It cannot be located in a region that experiences frequent pressure or forces. This means the tip of the finger is out, as is the "pad" of the finger. Things such as operating power tools and strongly gripping/pulling/pushing should not put the implant or myself in danger.

It must be located in a region which is has a high concentration of nerves. Since the goal of the procedure is to gain a sixth sense, the location should be as sensitive as possible. Somewhere near the tip of the finger is generally accepted as the best location.

It must not stick out or leave a visible bump. This is not just for the aesthetic considerations. If it sticks out, it is at higher risk for impact and damage, both to the implant and to my finger.

It cannot interfere with the ability to play a guitar. I initially was going to place the implant in my non-dominant hand, my left. However, I play guitar, which involves mashing every part of every finger of the left hand (except the thumb) against the strings, sliding up and down, etc. Additionally, I'm interested if I can affect the sound of the guitar by using the implant to affect the electromagnetic pickups or steel strings.

Coating Hunt Part 2

I have continued to contact companies about Parylene coatings.

I came across a process called ParyLAST, in which the surface is prepared in a different manor, "cold plasma cleaning" or something of the like, then coated with parylene. According to the companies website, the process is much more durable and longlasting than conventional parylene coating procedures. This coating has apparently been extensively tested and is used in numerous FDA approved implant devices.

The local company responded, saying that they do not coat magnets, so scratch that one off the list.

Craig has been researching crush resistance, and has come up with several reports and studies conducted for magnet implants to hold dental work. While the coating was compromised, it was under the forces of chewing, which are the most powerful in the body.

But as Craig put it, "I don't want the thing to shatter at the slightest high five!"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Coating Hunt Part 1

I have ordered magnets from United Nuclear. They are supposedly the most powerful variety available, and I'm pretty sure they are the ones used in the original implant experiments. They are my starting point.

Several companies specialize in Parylene coating and I have contacted a few. I was very pleased when a company wrote back saying they could indeed coat the magnets. As of right now I am working out the details and trying to do it with a limited budget. If I were to ship them magnets to coat, they would charge $500 for a batch. This is a standard "engineering run" price for them. The quote was for 20 magnets at this price, but it's possible to get more in.

If this is the only option, I have no problem investing this money. I thought about selling the remainder of the implant-ready magnets to recover the cost if it does indeed work, but it would be wholly irresponsible on my part to do so. At no point do I want to be known as "that guy selling faulty implants." Instead, I will probably ship them to prominent body artists for examination or further testing.

The company that responded to me also manufactures and magnetizes coated magnets in-house, which may be better and less expensive than shipping them magnets which I purchase. More on this after I get responses from them.

Apparently, coating an already magnetized magnet is more difficult than a non-magnetized one. I can only assume that the coating machine has ferrous components that the magnet would attract and stick to. It can be done, but an unmagnetized part is reportedly much easier to coat.

A local company stated that the magnets would be too difficult to coat while magnetized, but I plan to visit them in person once my magnets come in the mail. An in-person chat with somebody who knows their stuff will be very beneficial.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Making a magnet implantable.

In order to prevent the body from rejecting an implanted magnet, it must be coated with a biocompatible material. In the past, others used implant-grade silicone. The magnet was dipped or the material was applied via a mold, completely encasing the magnet. (see Magnetic Implant: Development and Updates.)

Unfortunately, both the strength of silicone and the method used to apply it resulted in almost all of the implants failing. Silicone proved simply too soft to guarantee containment. In Shannon Laratt's final article about the implants he suggests immediate removal of any silicone coated magnets, as he their eventual failure is inevitable.

Encasing the magnet in Teflon or glass would be an option, but both those methods are currently beyond my means. Titanium or other implant grade metals could also be a possibility. Some of these methods require intense heat, which can demagnetize and damage a magnet.

The most attractive option (to me at least) is a Parylene coating. Parylene is a polymer which is applied in vapor form at room temperatures in a vacuum. Parylene is biocompatible and has been used for years to coat medical devices for implantation.

Right now the plan is to get magnets coated, test them out, and eventually have one implanted.

Reading up

As with ANY body mod, I feel it exceptionally important to become as educated as possible before even considering undergoing the procedure.

Luckily, the first people to undergo the implant procedure documented it and posted for all to see. It's for this reason that I decided to post my experiences in a blog: for others to see my successes and failures, what it was like, and how to improve the process.

The Gift of Magnetic Vision

Shannon Larratt's experiences:
Implantation procedure
Six Month Retrospective
Removal of damaged implants

Magnetic Implant Development and Updates (3/31/2006)

A short-lived experience

So what's it like having magnetic vision?

Mainstream Media:
A Wired article on the implant (Quinn Norton)
Quinn Norton has her sixth sense removed

It begins

When a futurist-in-training friend of mine, Craig, first told me about Jesse Jarrell and Steve Haworth and their magnetic implants I thought it was novel and interesting, but silly. Craig then told me that it gave them a sixth sense - the ability to sense magnetic fields.

Since that time I have been seeking my own magnetic implant.

The process itself is quite straightforward: coat a tiny-but-powerful neodymium magnet in a biocompatible material and implant it in the finger. After healing, the concentration of nerves in the fingertip will provide a near direct interface to the magnet, which will twitch and vibrate in response to changing magnetic fields.

The implant has gotten some mainstream exposure through a Wired magazine article,
which created a large demand for the experimental procedure. However, the pioneers of the procedure unanimously agree that the implant is not ready for the mainstream. The fact that most (if not all) of the original implant recipients experienced complications and widespread implant removal confirms this fact. (ed: according to an email from Jesse Jarrel, these failures were mainly seen in the dip-coated magnets. The injection mold magnets seem to have held up just fine to this day.)

The main problem, it seems, is with the silicon coating used to isolate the magnet from the body's defenses. The soft coating is easily compromised, leading to exposure of the nickel or gold plated neodymium. The magnet breaks down and is rejected by the body.

The artists who pioneered this implant all agree that it is an amazing mod that warrants further research.

As of late, there has been no progress - or at least progress which has been published. My guess is that those who have the implants are hesitant to experiment further, and for good reason. The process of having an implant installed without anesthetic to a nerve-rich area is very VERY uncomfortable. Without a change in approach, implant failure is bound to happen again, necessitating removal - which is probably more uncomfortable than having it installed.

Discomfort aside, the emotional stress of gaining a new amazing ability only to have it disappear must be very difficult.

The missing piece of the puzzle for a successful implant is a coating suitable for permanent implantation. This is where I am focusing now: finding a suitable coating. I already have a pretty good idea of how it will be done.

I'm driven to find a way to make this work.

I'm educated as an electrical engineer, which has given me insight to the unseen workings of the universe. I often imagine what EM fields would look like if I could see them, and this could be the chance to actually feel them.