Improving the tribological properties and biocompatibility of Zr-based bulk metallic glass for potential biomedical applications

Victoria Sawyer, Xiao Tao, Huan Dong, Behnam Dashtbozorg, Xiaoying Li, Rachel Sammons, Han-Shan Dong

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Zr-based bulk metallic glasses (Zr-BMGs) are potentially the next generation of metallic biomaterials for orthopaedic fixation devices and joint implants owing to their attractive bulk material properties. However, their poor tribological properties and long-term biocompatibility present major concerns for orthopaedic applications. To this end, a novel surface modification technology, based on ceramic conversion treatment (CCT) in an oxidising medium between the glass transition temperature and the crystallisation temperature, has been developed to convert the surface of commercially available Zr44Ti11Cu10Ni11Be25 (Vitreloy 1b) BMG into ceramic layers. The engineered surfaces were fully characterised by in-situ X-ray diffraction, glow-discharge optical emission spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and scanning transmission electron microscopy. The mechanical, chemical, and tribological properties were evaluated respectively by nano-indentation, electrochemical corrosion testing, tribological testing and the potential biocompatibility assessed by a cell proliferation assay. The results have demonstrated that after CCT at 350 °C for 40 h and at 380 °C for 4.5 h the original surfaces were converted into to a uniform 35-55-nm-thick oxide layer (with significantly reduced Ni and Cu concentration) followed by a 200-400-nm-thick oxygen-diffusion hardened case. The surface nano hardness was increased from 7.75 ± 0.36 to 18.32 ± 0.21 GPa, the coefficient of friction reduced from 0.5-0.6 to 0.1-0.2 and the wear resistance improved by more than 60 times. After 24 h of contact, SAOS-2 human osteoblast-like cells had increased surface coverage from 18% for the untreated surface to 46% and 54% for the 350 °C/40 h and 380 °C/4.5 h treated surfaces, respectively. The significantly improved tribological properties and biocompatibility have shown the potential of the ceramic conversion treated Zr-BMG for orthopaedic applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1960
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2020


  • biocompatibility
  • bulk metallic glass
  • ceramic conversion treatment
  • orthopaedic application
  • wear


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