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J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2009 Aug;2(4):384-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2008.10.008. Epub 2008 Nov 12.

Indentation techniques for evaluating the fracture toughness of biomaterials and hard tissues.

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Materials Science, School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.


Indentation techniques for assessing fracture toughness are attractive due to the simplicity and expediency of experiments, and because they potentially allow the characterization of both local and bulk fracture properties. Unfortunately, rarely have such techniques been proven to give accurate fracture toughness values. This is a concern, as such techniques are seeing increasing usage in the study of biomaterials and biological hard tissues. Four available indentation techniques are considered in the present article: the Vickers indentation fracture (VIF) test, the cube corner indentation fracture (CCIF) test, the Vickers crack opening displacement (VCOD) test and the interface indentation fracture (IIF) test. Each technique is discussed in terms of its suitability for assessing the absolute and relative toughness of materials or material interfaces based on the published literature on the topic. In general, the VIF and CCIF techniques are found to be poor for quantitatively evaluating toughness of any brittle material, and the large errors involved (approximately +/-50%) make their applicability as comparative techniques limited. Indeed, indentation toughness values must differ by at least by a factor of three to conclude a significant difference in actual toughness. Additionally, new experimental results are presented on using the CCIF test to evaluate the fracture resistance of human cortical bone. Those new results indicate that inducing cracking is difficult, and that the cracks that do form are embedded in the plastic zone of the indent, invalidating the use of linear elastic fracture mechanics based techniques for evaluating the toughness associated with those cracks. The VCOD test appears to be a good quantitative method for some glasses, but initial results suggest there may be problems associated with applying this technique to other brittle materials. Finally, the IIF technique should only be considered a comparative or semi-quantitative technique for comparing material interfaces and/or the neighboring materials.

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