A mismatch in bone and implant elastic modulus can lead to aseptic loosening and ultimately implant failure. Selective elemental composition of titanium (Ti) alloys coupled with surface treatment can be used to improve osseointegration and reduce bacterial adhesion. The biocompatibility and antibacterial properties of Ti-35Nb-7Zr-6Ta (TNZT) using fibre laser surface treatment were assessed in this work, due to its excellent material properties (low Young’s modulus and non-toxicity) and the promising attributes of fibre laser treatment (very fast, non-contact, clean and only causes changes in surface without altering the bulk composition/microstructure). The TNZT surfaces in this study were treated in a high speed regime, specifically 100 and 200 mm/s, (or 6 and 12 m/min). Surface roughness and topography (WLI and SEM), chemical composition (SEM-EDX), microstructure (XRD) and chemistry (XPS) were investigated. The biocompatibility of the laser treated surfaces was evaluated using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) cultured in vitro at various time points to assess cell attachment (6, 24 and 48 h), proliferation (3, 7 and 14 days) and differentiation (7, 14 and 21 days). Antibacterial performance was also evaluated using Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Live/Dead staining. Sample groups included untreated base metal (BM), laser treated at 100 mm/s (LT100) and 200 mm/s (LT200). The results demonstrated that laser surface treatment creates a rougher (Ra value of BM is 199 nm, LT100 is 256 nm and LT200 is 232 nm), spiky surface (Rsk > 0 and Rku > 3) with homogenous elemental distribution and decreasing peak-to-peak distance between ripples (0.63 to 0.315 µm) as the scanning speed increases (p < 0.05), generating a surface with distinct micron and nano scale features. The improvement in cell spreading, formation of bone-like nodules (only seen on the laser treated samples) and subsequent four-fold reduction in bacterial attachment (p < 0.001) can be attributed to the features created through fibre laser treatment, making it an excellent choice for load bearing implant applications. Last but not least, the presence of TiN in the outermost surface oxide might also account for the improved biocompatibility and antibacterial performances of TNZT.
- mesenchymal stem cell (MSC); antibacterial performance; TNZT; beta titanium; fibre laser treatment