Characterizing wear processes on orthopaedic materials using scanning probe microscopy

PA Campbell*, B O'Rourke, P Dawson, RJ Turner, DG Walmsley, PL Spedding, EP Watters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The operational lifetime of hip replacement prostheses can be severely limited due to the occurrence of excessive wear at the load-bearing interfaces. The aim of this study was to investigate how the surface topography of articulating counterfaces evolves over the duration of a laboratory wear run. It was observed that modular stainless steel femoral heads wearing against ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) can themselves be subject to wearing. A comparison with retrieved in vivo-aged femoral heads shows many topographical similarities: in a qualitative sense, scratching and pitting are evident on laboratory and in vivo-worn femoral heads; quantitatively, roughness comparisons between the new and worn devices are seen to increase typically by a factor of 4 after laboratory wearing. The observations suggest that a particular wear mode, namely third-body wear, is responsible for the increased roughness. It is conjectured that third bodies might arise through surface fatigue wear on the metal counterface, Wear debris is also observed to have been generated from the polymer surface, creating rounded debris with sizes predominantly in the range 0.4-0.8 microns: dimensions that are comparable to values previously reported for in vivo generated debris.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S867-S871
Number of pages5
JournalApplied Physics A-materials Science & Processing
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1998
Event9th International Conference on Scanning Tunneling Microscopy/Spectroscopy and Related Techniques - HAMBURG, Germany
Duration: 20 Jul 199725 Jul 1997




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