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ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2016 Jul 20;8(28):17805-16. doi: 10.1021/acsami.6b04421. Epub 2016 Jul 7.

Plasma-Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PE-CVD) yields better Hydrolytical Stability of Biocompatible SiOx Thin Films on Implant Alumina Ceramics compared to Rapid Thermal Evaporation Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD).

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Department of Dental Materials and Biomaterials Research, RWTH Aachen University Hospital , Pauwelsstrasse 30, 52074 Aachen, Germany.
Technical and Macromolecular Chemistry, University of Paderborn , Warburger Strasse 100, 33098 Paderborn, Germany.


Densely sintered aluminum oxide (α-Al2O3) is chemically and biologically inert. To improve the interaction with biomolecules and cells, its surface has to be modified prior to use in biomedical applications. In this study, we compared two deposition techniques for adhesion promoting SiOx films to facilitate the coupling of stable organosilane monolayers on monolithic α-alumina; physical vapor deposition (PVD) by thermal evaporation and plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PE-CVD). We also investigated the influence of etching on the formation of silanol surface groups using hydrogen peroxide and sulfuric acid solutions. The film characteristics, that is, surface morphology and surface chemistry, as well as the film stability and its adhesion properties under accelerated aging conditions were characterized by means of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES), and tensile strength tests. Differences in surface functionalization were investigated via two model organosilanes as well as the cell-cytotoxicity and viability on murine fibroblasts and human mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSC). We found that both SiOx interfaces did not affect the cell viability of both cell types. No significant differences between both films with regard to their interfacial tensile strength were detected, although failure mode analyses revealed a higher interfacial stability of the PE-CVD films compared to the PVD films. Twenty-eight day exposure to simulated body fluid (SBF) at 37 °C revealed a partial delamination of the thermally deposited PVD films whereas the PE-CVD films stayed largely intact. SiOx layers deposited by both PVD and PE-CVD may thus serve as viable adhesion-promoters for subsequent organosilane coupling agent binding to α-alumina. However, PE-CVD appears to be favorable for long-term direct film exposure to aqueous solutions.


PE-CVD; PVD; SiOx thin film; oxide ceramics; silanization


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