Biomedical materials are being extensively researched, and many different types such as metals, metal alloys, and polymers are being used. Currently used biomedical materials are not perfect in terms of corrosion resistance, biocompatibility, and surface properties. It is not easy to fabricate from scratch new materials that can fulfill all requirements and an alternative approach is to modify the surface properties of current materials to cater to the requirements.
Plasma immersion ion implantation (PIII) is an effective and economical surface treatment technique and that can be used to enhance the surface properties of biomaterials. The unique advantage of plasma modification is that the surface properties and functionalities can be enhanced selectively while the favorable bulk attributes of the materials such as strength remain unchanged. In addition, the non-line of sight feature of PIII is appropriate for biomedical devices with complex geometries such as orthopedic implants. However, care must be exercised during the plasma treatment because low-temperature treatment is necessary for heat-sensitive materials such as polymers which typically have a low melting point and glass transition temperature.
Two kinds of biomedical materials will be discussed in this thesis. One is nickel titanium (NiTi) alloy which is a promising orthopedic implant material due to its unique shape memory and superelastic properties. However, harmful ions may diffuse from the surface causing safety hazards. In this study, we investigate the properties and performance of NiTi after nitrogen and oxygen PIII in terms of the chemical composition, corrosion resistance, and biocompatibility. The XPS results show that barrier layers mainly containing TiN and TiOx are produced after nitrogen and oxygen PIII, respectively. Based on the simulated in vitro and electrochemical corrosion tests, greatly reduced ion leaching and improved corrosion resistance are accomplished by PIII. Porous NiTi is also studied because the porous structure possesses better bone ingrowth capability and compatible elastic modulus with human bones. These advantages promote better recovery in patients. However, higher risks of Ni leaching are expected due to the increased exposed surface area and rougher topography than dense and smooth finished NiTi. We successfully apply PIII to porous NiTi and in vitro tests confirm good cytocompatibility of the materials.
The other type of biomedical materials studied here is ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) which is a potential material for use in immunoassay plates and biosensors. In these applications, active antibodies or enzymes attached to a surface to detect molecules of interests by means of specific interactions are required. Moreover, the retention of enzyme activity is crucial in these applications. Therefore, the aim of this study is to investigate the use of PIII to prepare UHMWPE surfaces for binding of active proteins in terms of the binding density and ‘shelf life’ of the treated surfaces. Argon and nitrogen PIII treatments are attempted to modify the surface of UHMWPE. Horseradish peroxidase (HRP) is selected to conduct the protein binding test since it is a convenient protein to assay. Experimental results show that both PIII treated surfaces significantly improve the density of active HRP bound to the surface after incubation in buffer containing HRP. Furthermore, the PIII treated surfaces are found to perform better than a commercially available protein binding surface and the shelf life of the PIII treated surfaces under ambient conditions is at least six months.
In conclusion, a biocompatible barrier layer on NiTi and a protein binding surface on UHMWPE is synthesized by PIII. The surface properties such as corrosion resistance and functionality on these two different types of substrates are improved by PIII.