Surface morphology, tribological properties and in vitro biocompatibility of nanostructured zirconia thin films

J Mater Sci Mater Med. 2016 May;27(5):96. doi: 10.1007/s10856-016-5707-4. Epub 2016 Mar 22.


Deposition of nanostructured and low-wear zirconia (ZrO2) thin films on the metallic component of a total joint implant is envisaged to reduce wear of the soft ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) counterpart. In this work, morphological surface features, wear resistance and in vitro-biocompatibility of zirconia thin films deposited by the novel Pulsed Plasma Deposition (PPD) method have been investigated. Film thickness, roughness and wettability were found to be strongly dependent on deposition gas pressure. Interestingly, wear rate of UHMWPE disks coupled to zirconia-coated titanium spheres was only poorly correlated to the contact angle values, while film roughness and thickness seemed not to affect it. Furthermore, wear of UHMWPE, when coupled with zirconia coated-titanium spheres, significantly decreased with respect to uncoated spheres under dry or NaCl-lubricated conditions; besides, when using bovine serum, similar results were obtained for coated and uncoated spheres. Finally, suitable mesenchymal stem and osteoblast cells adhesion, proliferation and viability were observed, suggesting good biocompatibility of the nanostructured zirconia films. Taken together, the results shown in this work indicate that zirconia thin films deposited by the PPD method deserve further investigations as low-wear materials for biomedical applications such as total joint replacement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Materials Testing / methods*
  • Membranes, Artificial*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology
  • Mice
  • Nanostructures / chemistry*
  • Surface Properties
  • Zirconium / chemistry*


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Zirconium