Structural, mechanical and biocompatibility studies of hydroxyapatite-derived composites toughened by zirconia addition
Hydroxyapatite(OHAp)-based ceramic composites with added ZrO2 have been prepared both by sintering at 1400 °C and by hot isostatic pressing (HIP) at 1450 °C and 140 MPa pressure (argon atmosphere). The development of the crystalline phases and the microstructure of the composites have been examined using X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, infrared and magic-angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (MASNMR) spectroscopic techniques. The fracture toughness and biocompatibility of the composites have also been studied. The effect of the addition of CeO2- and Y2O3-stabilized ZrO2 and of simple monoclinic ZrO2 to the initial physical mixture, on the structure and properties of the resulting composites has been investigated. In most of the sintered or HIP samples, the OHAp decomposes into tricalcium phosphate (β-TCP). CaO, which forms as a product of decomposition, dissolves completely in ZrO2 and stabilizes the latter in its cubic/tetragonal phase. Presence of the β-TCP phase in the product seems to be the result of a structural synergistic effect of hexagonal OHAp. Two structurally distinct orthophosphate groups have been identified in the composites by MASNMR of 31P and attributed to decomposition products of OHAp at higher temperatures. The composites possess high KIC values (2–3 times higher than that of pure OHAp). Decomposition of hydroxyapatite gives rise to differences in microstructure between HIP and simply sintered composites although fracture toughness values are similar in magnitude indicating the presence of several toughening mechanisms. The in vitro SP2-O cell test suggests that these composites possess good biocompatibility. The combination of good biocompatibility, desirable microstructure and easy availability of initial reactants indicates that the simply sintered composite of OHAp and monoclinic ZrO2(ZAP-30) appears to be the most suitable for prosthetic applications.