Time-dependent failure of amorphous polylactides in static loading conditions

Engels, Tom A. P.; Söntjens, Serge H. M.; Smit, Theo H.; Govaert, Leon E.
January 2010
Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine;Jan2010, Vol. 21 Issue 1, p89
Academic Journal
Polylactides are commonly praised for their excellent mechanical properties (e.g. a high modulus and yield strength). In combination with their bioresorbability and biocompatibility, they are considered prime candidates for application in load-bearing biomedical implants. Unfortunately, however, their long-term performance under static load is far from impressive. In a previous in vivo study on degradable polylactide spinal cages in a goat model it was observed that, although short-term mechanical and real-time degradation experiments predicted otherwise, the implants failed prematurely under the specified loads. In this study we demonstrate that this premature failure is attributed to the time-dependent character of the material used. The phenomenon is common to all polymers, and finds its origin in stress-activated segmental molecular mobility leading to a steady rate of plastic flow. The stress-dependence of this flow-rate is well captured by Eyring’s theory of absolute rates, as demonstrated on three amorphous polylactides of different stereoregularity. We show that the kinetics of the three materials are comparable and can be well described using the proposed modeling framework. The main conclusion is that knowledge of the instantaneous strength of a polymeric material is insufficient to predict its long-term performance.


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