Averting wear and tear – Testing a ceramic coating for titanium implants in the Nano Argovia project PromucolaSNI INSight May 2020
In the Nano Argovia project Promucola, researchers are developing a ceramic coating for titanium implants to make them more resistant to abrasion.
Joint implants are commonly made from metals such as cobalt-chrome alloys, because of the stability these materials offer. Yet they can also trigger allergic reactions, which cause problems that can ultimately lead to the loss of the implant. Titanium implants, already in use in dentistry, are a viable alternative for joint implants due to their high biocompatibility and mechanical strength. However, when subjected to constant movement, as is the case with knee, shoulder or elbow joints, untreated titanium surfaces are too susceptible to abrasion.
In the Nano Argovia project Promucola, an interdisciplinary team led by Professor Michael de Wild of the School of Life Sciences (FHNW) is developing a robust ceramic coating to protect titanium implants against wear. This involves researchers from the School of Life Sciences working in close collaboration with the new ANAXAM Technology Transfer Center (Villigen) and the company Orchid Orthopedics Switzerland GmbH (Baden-Dättwil).
Their goal is to apply a ceramic coating to titanium implants using the plasma spray method, a procedure in which the biocompatible powder mixture is heated and then sprayed onto the implant. The rapid cooling not only leads to the desired layers but also to the formation of metastable phases on the surface, affecting the implant’s hardness and resistance to abrasion. The researchers involved in the project are currently exploring the conditions under which these metastable layers form, and how they can subsequently be removed or stabilized. The results are used to optimize production and develop a procedure for postprocessing the implants.
The cutting-edge materials analysis brought to the table by the ANAXAM Technology Transfer Center means that the tests can be conducted at industrial scale.
“With this project, we hope to further exploit the potential of plasma-based ceramic coatings in order to develop a robust ceramic surface for titanium implants that protects them against wear.”
Dr. Armando Salito, Director of Coating Innovation, Orchid Orthopedics Switzerland GmbH