Evaluating the morphology of the degradation layer of pure magnesium via 3D imaging at resolutions below 40 nm


Magnesium is attractive for the application as a temporary bone implant due to its inherent biodegradability, non-toxicity and suitable mechanical properties. The degradation process of magnesium in physiological environments is complex and is thought to be a diffusion-limited transport problem. We use a multi-scale imaging approach using micro computed tomography and transmission X-ray microscopy (TXM) at resolutions below 40 nm. Thus, we are able to evaluate the nanoporosity of the degradation layer and infer its impact on the degradation process of pure magnesium in two physiological solutions. Magnesium samples were degraded in simulated body fluid (SBF) or Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium (DMEM) with 10% fetal bovine serum (FBS) for one to four weeks. TXM reveals the three-dimensional interconnected pore network within the degradation layer for both solutions. The pore network morphology and degradation layer composition are similar for all samples. By contrast, the degradation layer thickness in samples degraded in SBF was significantly higher and more inhomogeneous than in DMEM+10%FBS. Distinct features could be observed within the degradation layer of samples degraded in SBF, suggesting the formation of microgalvanic cells, which are not present in samples degraded in DMEM+10%FBS. The results suggest that the nanoporosity of the degradation layer and the resulting ion diffusion processes therein have a limited influence on the overall degradation process. This indicates that the influence of organic components on the dampening of the degradation rate by the suppression of microgalvanic degradation is much greater in the present study.
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