Mechanical properties of dispersed ceramic nanoparticles in polymer composites for orthopedic applications
Huinan Liu, Thomas J Webster
Division of Engineering, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
Abstract: Ceramic/polymer composites have been considered as third-generation orthopedic biomaterials due to their ability to closely match properties (such as surface, chemistry, biological, and mechanical) of natural bone. It has already been shown that the addition of nanophase compared with conventional (or micron-scale) ceramics to polymers enhances bone cell functions. However, in order to fully take advantage of the promising nanometer size effects that nanoceramics can provide when added to polymers, it is critical to uniformly disperse them in a polymer matrix. This is critical since ceramic nanoparticles inherently have a strong tendency to form larger agglomerates in a polymer matrix which may compromise their properties. Therefore, in this study, model ceramic nanoparticles, specifically titania and hydroxyapatite (HA), were dispersed in a model polymer (PLGA, poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid) using high-power ultrasonic energy. The mechanical properties of the resulting PLGA composites with well-dispersed ceramic (either titania or HA) nanoparticles were investigated and compared with composites with agglomerated ceramic nanoparticles. Results demonstrated that well-dispersed ceramic nanoparticles (titania or HA) in PLGA improved mechanical properties compared with agglomerated ceramic nanoparticles even though the weight percentage of the ceramics was the same. Specifically, well-dispersed nanoceramics in PLGA enhanced the tensile modulus, tensile strength at yield, ultimate tensile strength, and compressive modulus compared with the more agglomerated nanoceramics in PLGA. In summary, supplemented by previous studies that demonstrated greater osteoblast (bone-forming cell) functions on well-dispersed nanophase ceramics in polymers, the present study demonstrated that the combination of PLGA with well-dispersed nanoceramics enhanced mechanical properties necessary for load-bearing orthopedic/dental applications.
Keywords: nanocomposites, ceramic nanoparticles, titania nanoparticles, hydroxyapatite nanoparticles, dispersion, agglomeration, biodegradable polymer, PLGA, mechanical properties, orthopedic/dental applications
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