Enhancing the mechanical and biologicalperformance of a metallic biomaterial for orthopedic applications through changes in the surface oxide layer by nanocrystalline surface modification

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Nano Scale, Royal Society of Chemistry, Volume 10 (2015)




Department of Mechanical Engineering


Nanostructured metals are a promising class of biomaterials for application in orthopedics to improve the mechanical performance and biological response for increasing the life of biomedical implants. Surface mechanical attrition treatment (SMAT) is an efficient way of engineering nanocrystalline surfaces on metal substrates. In this work, 316L stainless steel (SS), a widely used orthopedic biomaterial, was subjected to SMAT to generate a nanocrystalline surface. Surface nanocrystallization modified the nature of the oxide layer present on the surface. It increased the corrosion-fatigue strength in saline by 50%. This increase in strength is attributed to a thicker oxide layer, residual compressive stresses, high strength of the surface layer, and lower propensity for intergranular corrosion in the nanocrystalline layer. Nanocrystallization also enhanced osteoblast attachment and proliferation. Intriguingly, wettability and surface roughness, the key parameters widely acknowledged for controlling the cell lar response remained unchanged after nanocrystallization. The observed cellular behavior is explained in terms of the changes in electronic properties of the semiconducting passive oxide film present on the surface of 316L SS. Nanocrystallization increased the charge carrier density of the n-type oxide film likely preventing denaturation of the adsorbed celladhesive proteins such as fibronectin. In addition, a net positive charge developed on the otherwise neutral oxide layer, which is known to facilitate cellular adhesion. The role of changes in the electronic properties of the oxide films on metal substrates is thus highlighted in this work. This study demonstrates the advantages of nanocrystalline surface modification by SMAT for processing metallic biomaterials used in orthopedic implants.