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Biomatter. 2012 Apr-Jun;2(2):94-102. doi: 10.4161/biom.20710.

Evaluation of silicon nitride as a wear resistant and resorbable alternative for total hip joint replacement.

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Applied Materials Science, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


Many of the failures of total joint replacements are related to tribology, i.e., wear of the cup, head and liner. Accumulation of wear particles at the implants can be linked to osteolysis which leads to bone loss and in the end aseptic implant loosening. Therefore it is highly desirable to reduce the generation of wear particles from the implant surfaces. Silicon nitride (Si(3)N(4)) has shown to be biocompatible and have a low wear rate when sliding against itself and is therefore a good candidate as a hip joint material. Furthermore, wear particles of Si(3)N(4) are predicted to slowly dissolve in polar liquids and they therefore have the potential to be resorbed in vivo, potentially reducing the risk for aseptic loosening. In this study, it was shown that α-Si(3)N(4)-powder dissolves in PBS. Adsorption of blood plasma indicated a good acceptance of Si(3)N(4) in the body with relatively low immune response. Si(3)N(4) sliding against Si(3)N(4) showed low wear rates both in bovine serum and PBS compared with the other tested wear couples. Tribofilms were built up on the Si(3)N(4) surfaces both in PBS and in bovine serum, controlling the friction and wear characteristics.


friction; hip joint replacement; silicon nitride; solubility; wear

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