Biofilm infection is one of the main reasons for implant failure. It is extremely difficult to cure due to its high resistance to antibiotic treatments, and can result in substantial healthcare costs. In this study, the important shape memory NiTi alloy, in its martensitic state, was laser-treated using our newly-developed surface modification technique, aiming to tackle the biofilm infection problem. Martensitic NiTi was chosen for investigation because of its potential advantages in terms of (i) lower elastic modulus and (ii) higher damping capacity over its austenitic counterpart, giving rise to a lower risk of stress shielding and maximum stress between bones and load-bearing implants. The surfaces after laser treatment were systemically analysed using a series of surface measurement (i.e. surface roughness and water contact angle) and material characterisation (i.e. SEM-EDX, XRD and XPS) techniques. The antibacterial performance of the laser-treated surfaces was evaluated using the Staphylococcus aureus (or S. aureus) cells in-vitro cultured at 37 °C for 24 h. Fluorescence microscopy accompanied by Live/Dead staining was employed to analyse the cell culture results. The surfaces in their as-received states and after polishing were also tested and compared with the laser-treated surfaces in order to gain a deeper insight in how different surface conditions would influence biofilm formation. Our results indicate that the surfaces after laser treatment can mitigate bacterial attachment and biofilm formation effectively. The antibacterial performance was mainly attributable to the laser-formed oxides which brought desirable changes to the surface chemistry of NiTi. The laser-induced changes in surface roughness and topography, on a micrometre scale, only played a minor role in influencing bacterial attachment. The findings of this study demonstrated for the first time that martensitic NiTi with laser treatment could be a promising choice for the next-generation implants given its superior antimicrobial resistance and favourable mechanical properties for loading bearing applications.
- Antibacterial performance;
- Biofilm formation