Improvement in the tribological properties of UHMWPE sliding against Ti6Al4V by surface modification

Wen Shi*, Han Shan Dong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Surface engineering has been emerging as one of the most promising technologies to improve the tribological properties of bio-materials with a view to extending the life span of medical implants. For example, some novel surface engineering techniques including ion implantation of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) and thermal oxidation (TO) treatment of titanium alloy have been developed. However, the full potential of improving the wear resistance of orthopaedic implants based on the UHMWPE/ Ti6Al4V system will not be realized until the tribological performance of this surface engineered tribo-system is fully characterized and the acting wear mechanisms are well understood. In this paper, a pin-on-disc tribometer was employed to evaluate the tribological response of the following three tribo-systems: (1) untreated UHMWPE/untreated Ti6Al4V, (2) untreated UHMWPE/TO-treated Ti6A14V and (3) ion implanted UHMWPE/TO treated Ti6A14V under water lubricated conditions. Experimental results show that the tribological properties of UHMWPE can be significantly increased by surface engineering its surface and/or the counterface. This can be attributed to the hardened surface of UHMWPE via molecular structure modification induced by ion bean bombardment coupled with the surface oxide layer on Ti6Al4V formed during TO treatment, which has favorable tribological compatibility with UHMWPE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-171
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Shanghai University
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Total joint arthroplasty is widely regarded as one of the greatest achievement in the field of biomaterials and bioengineering in the last century. The ultra-high molecular weigh polyethylene (UHMWPE)/Ti6A14V couple is one of the most important biomaterial systems for such total joint replacement prosthesis (TJR) as hip and knee. This is mainly because the intrinsic molecular structure of UHMWPE makes it have an army of properties including low friction and high resistance to wear, biocompatibility and biostability, high impact strength and toughness. The excellent biological behaviour, the remarkable corrosion resistance, and bone-like elasticity of Ti6AI4V alloy justify its increasing use for the femoral component of both hip and knee prostheses t~ . However, many studies have shown that fine wear debris generated from the articu- Received Sep. 8, 2003; Revised Feb. 11, 2004 Project supported by the Science Foundation of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Education (Grant No. 02AI~I ), European Commision(Grant No. IC15-CT96-0705) SHI Wen, Ph.D., A~o. Prof., E-marl: lating surfaces (which is mostly UHMWPE) can cause adverse cell response and bone resorption, thereby leading to aseptic loosening and thus premature failure of TJR prostheses E2j . Clearly, improving tribological properties of UHMWPE and understanding the tribological behaviour and/or wear mechanism are of vital importance for extending the life span of TRJ prostheses.


  • sliding wear
  • surface engineering
  • Ti6Al4V

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics
  • General Engineering


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