Characterisation of a novel poly (ether ether ketone)/calcium sulphate composite for bone augmentation

Erik A.B. Hughes, Liam M. Grover*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
93 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Calcium sulphate (CS) has been used in bone grafting since the 1800s. It has not replaced autograft as the gold standard, however, since its dissolution occurs rapidly in bodily fluids, meaning that the material cannot support long-term bone growth. Here, the polymer poly (ether ether ketone) (PEEK) was used to slow dissolution in in vitro physiological environments and augment the mechanical properties of the material.

Methods: PEEK/CS specimens were fabricated by combining powders of PEEK and CS with water, resulting in a hardening paste. To enhance physical interactions between phases, cylindrical specimens were heat-treated to melt and fuse the PEEK. Following analysis of physical and chemical interactions by SEM and FT-IR respectively, dynamic ageing in PBS and compression testing was undertaken to measure how the PEEK influenced the mechanical properties of the final parts. Changes in structure and chemistry were determined using helium pycnometry, SEM and analysis of powder XRD patterns. 

Results: Powders of PEEK and CS hemihydrate (CSH) (CaSO4.0.5H2O) were combined with PEEK at 0 wt%, 2.5 wt%, 20 wt%, 40 wt% and 80 wt% and at a P:L ratio of 0.85 g/mL. The subsequently hardened structures were heat-treated, which initiated the melting of PEEK and dehydration of CSD (CaSO4.2H2O) to the CS anhydrite (CSA) (CaSO4) phase, which changed colour and apparent volume. FT-IR and SEM analysis revealed heat treatment of PEEK/CS specimens facilitated both physical and chemical interactions between phases. Over a period of 21 days of ageing in PBS, the hydration of CS was determined by XRD and improved specimen longevity at all levels of PEEK wt% loading was measured compared with the control. Importantly, increasing PEEK wt% loading resulted in a marked increase in the mechanical properties of PEEK/CS specimens in terms of both compressive strength and modulus. 

Conclusions: Reinforcement of CS with PEEK significantly enhanced in vitro dissolution resistance, in addition to enhancing mechanical properties. This composite therefore has significant future potential as a bone graft replacement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Number of pages11
JournalBiomaterials Research
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2017


  • Biomaterial
  • Bone graft
  • Calcium sulphate
  • PEEK

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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