Bioactive organic/inorganic hybrids with improved mechanical performance
New sol–gel functionalized poly-ethylene glycol (PEGM)/SiO2–CaO hybrids were prepared with interpenetrating networks of silica and PEGM through the formation of Si–O–Si bonds. Bioactive and mechanical properties were investigated for a series of hybrids containing varying organic/inorganic ratios and PEG molecular weights. In contrast to the unmodified PEG/SiO2–CaO hybrids, which rapidly dissolved and crumbled, the epoxy modified hybrids exhibited good mechanical properties and bioactivity. The compressive strength and Young's modulus were greater for higher molecular weight PEGM hybrids (PEGM600 compared to PEGM300). Compressive strengths of 138 MPa and 81 MPa were found for the 50 : 50 and 60 : 40 organic/inorganic hybrid samples respectively, which are comparable with cortical bone. Young's modulus values of ∼800 MPa were obtained for the 50 : 50 and 60 : 40 organic/inorganic hybrids. Bioactivity tests were conducted by immersing the hybrids into simulated body fluid and observing the formation of apatite. Apatite formation was observed within 24 hours of immersion. PEGM600 hybrids showed enhanced apatite formation compared to PEGM300 hybrids. Increased apatite formation was observed with increasing organic/inorganic ratio. 70 : 30 and 60 : 40 hybrids exhibited the greatest apatite formation. All PEGM hybrids samples had good cell viability and proliferation. The 60 : 40 PEGM600 hybrids displayed the optimal combination of bioactivity and mechanical strength. The bioactivity of these hybrids, combined with the enhanced mechanical properties, demonstrate that these materials have significant potential for bone regeneration applications.