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Bone. 2006 Aug;39(2):289-99. Epub 2006 Mar 15.

Time-lapsed investigation of three-dimensional failure and damage accumulation in trabecular bone using synchrotron light.

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Electronics/Metrology Laboratory, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, EMPA, Uberlandstrasse 129, 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.


Synchrotron radiation micro-computed tomography (SRmicroCT) is a very useful technique when it comes to three-dimensional (3D) imaging of complex internal and external geometries. Being a fully non-destructive technique, SRmicroCT can be combined with other experiments in situ for functional imaging. We are especially interested in the combination of SRmicroCT with mechanical testing in order to gain new insights in the failure mechanism of trabecular bone. This interest is motivated by the immense costs in health care due to patients suffering from osteoporosis, a systemic skeletal disease resulting in decreased bone stability and increased fracture risk. To better investigate the different failure mechanisms on the microlevel, we have developed a novel in situ mechanical compression device, capable of exerting both static and dynamic displacements on experimental samples. The device was calibrated for mechanical testing using solid aluminum and bovine trabecular bone samples. To study different failure mechanisms in trabecular bone, we compared a fatigued and a non-fatigued bovine bone sample with respect to failure initiation and propagation. The fatigued sample failed in a burst-like fashion in contrast to the non-fatigued sample, which exhibited a distinct localized failure band. Moreover, microscopic cracks - microcracks and microfractures - were uncovered in a 3D fashion illustrating the failure process in great detail. The majority of these cracks were connected to a bone surface. The data also showed that the classification of microcracks and -fractures from 2D section can sometimes be ambiguous, which is also true for the distinction of diffuse and distinct microdamage. Detailed investigation of the failure mechanism in these samples illustrated that trabecular bone often fails in delamination, providing a mechanism for energy dissipation while conserving trabecular bone architecture. In the future, this will allow an even better understanding of bone mechanics related to its hierarchical structural organization.

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