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Freeze casting of porous hydroxyapatite scaffolds. I. Processing and general microstructure.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Missouri-Rolla, Rolla, Missouri 65409, USA.


Freeze casting of aqueous suspensions on a cold substrate was investigated as a method for preparing hydroxyapatite (HA) scaffolds with unidirectional porosity. In the present paper, we report on the ability to manipulate the microstructure of freeze-cast constructs by controlling the processing parameters. Constructs prepared from aqueous suspensions (5-20 volume percent particles) on a steel substrate at -20 degrees C had a lamellar-type microstructure, consisting of plate-like HA and unidirectional pores oriented in the direction of freezing. Sintering for 3 h at 1350 degrees C produced constructs with dense HA lamellas, porosity of approximately 50%, and inter-lamellar pore widths of 5-30 microm. The thickness of the HA lamellas decreased but the width of the pores increased with decreasing particle concentration. Decreasing the substrate temperature from -20 degrees C to -196 degrees C produced a finer lamellar microstructure. The use of water-glycerol mixtures (20 wt % glycerol) as the solvent in the suspension resulted in the production of finer pores (1-10 microm) and a larger number of dendritic growth connecting the HA lamellas. On the other hand, the use of water-dioxane mixtures (60 wt % dioxane) produced a cellular-type microstructure with larger pores (90-110 microm). The ability to produce a uniaxial microstructure and its manipulation by controlling the processing parameters indicate the potential of the present freeze casting route for the production of scaffolds for bone tissue engineering applications.

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