A structural approach in the study of bones: fossil and burnt bones at nanosize scale
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We review the different factors affecting significantly mineral structure and composition of bones. Particularly, it is assessed that micro-nanostructural and chemical properties of skeleton bones change drastically during burning; the micro- and nanostructural changes attending those phases manifest themselves, amongst others, in observable alterations to the bones colour, morphology, microstructure, mechanical strength and crystallinity. Intense changes involving the structure and chemical composition of bones also occur during the fossilization process. Bioapatite material is contaminated by an heavy fluorination process which, on a long-time scale reduces sensibly the volume of the original unit cell, mainly the a-axis of the hexagonal P63/m space group. Moreover, the bioapatite suffers to a varying degree of extent by phase contamination from the nearby environment, to the point that rarely a fluorapatite single phase may be found in fossil bones here examined. TEM images supply precise and localized information, on apatite crystal shape and dimension, and on different processes that occur during thermal processes or fossilization of ancient bone, complementary to that given by X-ray diffraction and Attenuated Total Reflection Infrared spectroscopy. We are presenting a synthesis of XRD, ATR-IR and TEM results on the nanostructure of various modern, burned and palaeontological bones.
KeywordsAverage Crystallite Size Fluorapatite Fossil Bone Dicalcium Phosphate Dihydrate Burned Bone
The authors thank Dr. Àngel Galobart (Institut Català de Paleontologia, Sabadell-Barcelona, Spain) for supplying the fossil osseous materials employed in this study. The authors also thank the Serveis de Microscopia, Dr. Eva Pellicer and Elisa Tolu (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona) for their technical assistance. This work is supported by Autonomous Region of Sardinia (LR3/2008-R.Cervelli, S.Politiche), with the research project titled: “Archaeometric and physico-chemical investigation using a multi-technique approach on archaeological, anthropological and paleontological materials from the Mediterranean area and Sardinia”.
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