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J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2011 Nov;4(8):2055-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2011.07.004. Epub 2011 Jul 18.

Direct comparison of nanoindentation and macroscopic measurements of bone viscoelasticity.

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Tissue Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA.


Nanoindentation has become a standard method for measuring mechanical properties of bone, especially within microstructural units such as individual osteons or trabeculae. The use of nanoindentation to measure elastic properties has been thoroughly studied and validated. However, it is also possible to assess time dependent properties of bone by nanoindentation. The goal of this study was to compare time dependent mechanical properties of bone measured at the macroscopic level with those measured by nanoindentation. Twelve samples were prepared from the posterior distal femoral cortex of young cows. Initially, dogbone samples were prepared and subjected to torsional stress relaxation in a saline bath at 37 °C. A 5 mm thick disk was subsequently sectioned from the gage length, and subjected to nanoindentation. Nanoindentation was performed on hydrated samples using a standard protocol with 20 indents performed in 20 different osteons in each sample. Creep and stress relaxation data were fit to a Burgers four parameter rheological model, a five parameter generalized Maxwell model, and a three parameter standard linear solid. For Burgers viscoelastic model, the time constants measured by nanoindentation and torsion were weakly negatively correlated, while for the other two models the time constants were uncorrelated. The results support the notion that the viscoelastic behavior of bone at the macroscopic scale is primarily due to microstructural features, interfaces, or fluid flow, rather than viscous behavior of the bone tissue. As viscoelasticity affects the fatigue behavior of materials, the microscale properties may provide a measure of bone quality associated with initial damage formation.

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