Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery

, Volume 131, Issue 2, pp 191–196 | Cite as

Mechanical characterization of nacre as an ideal-model for innovative new endoprosthesis materials

  • Berna Ida RichterEmail author
  • Sarah Kellner
  • Henning Menzel
  • Peter Behrens
  • Berend Denkena
  • Sven Ostermeier
  • Christof Hurschler
Orthopaedic Surgery



To mimic the impressive mechanical behavior of natural ceramics for technical or biomedical applications, interest has been focused on nacre, a natural composite consisting of imbricated aragonite platelets embedded in a protein matrix. Nacre is an ideal model material for implants, since it possesses favorable strength and toughness properties compared to the component materials of which it is composed. The focus of the present study was to test standardized parameters which are good indicators of the material’s suitability as an implant material.

Materials and methods

A three-point bending test was performed on polished nacre samples according to international standards for Young’s modulus, bending strength and fracture toughness. A total of 60 nacre samples were tested, with 5 samples each in 4 states of hydration (dry, distilled water, 0.9% NaCl and sea water). As a basis for comparison, 10 samples of a newly developed bioceramic material were tested for fracture toughness.


The fracture toughness of nacre tended to be higher for specimens conditioned in 0.9% NaCl than for dry specimens (5.3 ± 0.6 vs. 4.3 ± 0.7 MPam1/2, p = 0.061). The fracture toughness of the bioceramic investigated was observed to be somewhat higher than nacre (5.8 ± 0.4 vs. 4.3 ± 0.7 MPam1/2, p ≤ 0.001).

Discussion and conclusion

The increase in fracture toughness of hydrated nacre was not as large as would be expected based on the difference in stiffness of the matrix material after hydration that has been reported. Modulus and toughness were similar to published values and the fracture toughness observed was somewhat higher than reported for alumina implant ceramics, which are in use in total hip arthroplasty. In a direct comparison, we found that a newly developed alumina bioceramic material can in fact match nature in terms of fracture toughness.


Nacre Pearl Biomimetics Bioceramics Implant material Fracture toughness Material property 



We are grateful for the cooperation offered by the CeramTec AG, Medical Products Division, and in particular to Carsten Upmann, for providing us with bioceramic material samples. We further wish to thank Dennis Kundrat for his technical assistance, as well as the central research shop of the Hannover Medical School (Zentrale Forschungswerkstätten), and in particular J. Viering and M. Breyvogel for their support in manufacturing the fixtures used in this study. This research was funded by the Collaborative Research Centre 599 for Biomedical Technology, a Centre of the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest related to this study.


  1. 1.
    Mayer G (2005) Rigid biological systems as models for synthetic composites. Science 310:1144–1147CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Currey JD (1977) Mechanical properties of mother of pearl in tension. Proc R Soc Lond B 196:443–463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Barthelat F (2007) Biomimetics for next generation materials. Philos Transact A Math Phys Eng Sci 365:2907–2919CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gao H, Ji B, Jager IL, Arzt E, Fratzl P (2003) Materials become insensitive to flaws at nanoscale: lessons from nature. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 100:5597–5600CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Jackson AP, Vincent JFV, Turner RM (1988) The mechanical design of nacre. Proc R Soc Lond B 234:415–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Currey JD, Zioupos P, Davies P, Casino A (2001) Mechanical properties of nacre and highly mineralized bone. Proc Biol Sci 268:107–111CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Jackson AP, Vincent JFV, Turner RM (1990) Comparison of nacre with other ceramic composites. J Mater Sci 25:3173–3180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Fischer H, Waindich A, Telle R (2008) Influence of preparation of ceramic SEVNB specimens on fracture toughness testing results. Dent Mater 24:618–622CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Scherrer SS, Denry IL, Wiskott HW (1998) Comparison of three fracture toughness testing techniques using a dental glass and a dental ceramic. Dent Mater 14:246–255CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    European Committee for Standardization (2006) EN 843-2: Advanced technical ceramics—mechanical properties of monolithic ceramics at room temperature—Part 2: Determination of Young’s modulus, shear modulus and Poisson’s ratio; German version EN 843-2Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    European Committee for Standardization (2006) EN 843-1: Advanced technical ceramics—mechanical properties of monolithic ceramics at room temperature—Part 1: Determination of flexural strength; German version EN 843-1Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    International Organization for Standardization (2008) ISO 23146: Fine ceramics (advanced ceramics, advanced technical ceramics)—test methods for fracture toughness of monolithic ceramics—single-edge V-notch beam (SEVNB) method, ISO 23146Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    German Committee for Standardization (DIN) (2004) DIN CEN/TS 14425-5: Advanced technical ceramics—test methods for determination of fracture toughness of monolitic ceramics—Part 5: Single-edge vee-notch beam (SEVNB) method; German version CEN/TS 14425-5Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    CeramTec AG, Medical Products Division, Plochingen, Germany: BIOLOX® delta—nanocomposite for arthroplasty. Scientific Information and Performance Data, p 11Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Munch E, Launey ME, Alsem DH, Saiz E, Tomsia AP, Ritchie RO (2008) Tough, bio-inspired hybrid materials. Science 322:1516–1520CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Berna Ida Richter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah Kellner
    • 1
  • Henning Menzel
    • 2
  • Peter Behrens
    • 3
  • Berend Denkena
    • 4
  • Sven Ostermeier
    • 5
  • Christof Hurschler
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory for Biomechanics and Biomaterials, Orthopaedic DepartmentHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Technical ChemistryBraunschweig University of TechnologyBraunschweigGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Inorganic ChemistryLeibniz University HannoverHannoverGermany
  4. 4.Institute of Production Engineering and Machine ToolsGarbsenGermany
  5. 5.Orthopaedic DepartmentHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany

Personalised recommendations