The present work studies the microstructure and mechanical performance of tricalcium phosphate (TCP) based cermet toughened by iron particles. A novelty arises by the employment of spark plasma sintering for fabrication of the cermet. Results showed partial transformation of initial alpha TCP matrix to beta phase and the absence of oxidation of iron particles, as well as a lack of chemical reaction between TCP and iron components during sintering. The values of compressive and tensile strength of TCP/Fe cermet were 3.2 and 2.5 times, respectively, greater than those of monolithic TCP. Fracture analysis revealed the simultaneous action of crack-bridging and crack-deflection microstructural toughening mechanisms under compression. In contrast, under tension the reinforcing mechanism was only crack-bridging, being the reason for smaller increment of strength. Elastic properties of the cermet better matched values reported for human cortical bone. Thereby the new TCP/Fe cermet has potential for eventual use as a material for bone fractures fixation under load-bearing conditions.
Keywords: Ceramic-matrix composite; Fractography; Microstructural toughening; Spark plasma sintering; Tricalcium phosphate.
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