Bioinert ceramics for structural prostheses

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ISTEC has been developed bioinert ceramics for:

  • minimal wear articular surfaces and load bearing implants;
  • crowns,
  • abutments and endoosteal implants, osteointegrated by bioactive coatings;
  • electroconductive ceramic composites that can be machined in complex shapes by EDM.


Research on oxide ceramics is devoted to the production of pre-shaped sintered or partially sintered ceramic based on zirconia-alumina composites; monoliths are produced to be mechanically machided by CAD-CAM to obtain devices for dental and maxillofacial applications (endomandibular screws, abutments, teeth and crowns), able to be osteointegrated by a bioactive glass coating; prototypes for endoosteal implants have been also realized.

Beside ceramic oxides traditionally used for bio-inert prostheses, ISTEC has addressed the research also on non oxide ceramic materials, even composites. These materials are suitable for partial and/or total prosthetic reconstruction of joints and bearing articular surfaces. Properties such as very low wear and friction coefficient, high wettability and lubrication in biological environment, have been achieved. These materials do not interfere with medical diagnostic techniques (TAC, NMR).

Non oxide electrically conductive ceramic composites suitable for Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) have been used to obtain semi-finished complex shapes (undercuts, devices with holes, surface textures, etc.).

  • Prototypes have been realized for:
  • articular surfaces (knee, hip)
  • bone fixing and joining (miniplates, screws, pins, spinal fusion surgery devices)
  • Small articular couplings (metatarsal-metacarpal phalangeal joints)


M. Mazzocchi, A. Bellosi “On the possibility of silicon nitride as a ceramic for structural orthopaedic implants. Part I: processing, microstructure, mechanical properties, cytotoxicity”. Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine, 19, n.8 (2008), 2881-87.

M. Mazzocchi, D. Gardini, P.L. Traverso, M.G. Faga, A. Bellosi “On the possibility of silicon nitride as a ceramic for structural orthopaedic implants. Part II: chemical stability and wear resistance in body environment”. Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine 19, n.8 (2008), 2889-2901.

M. Mazzocchi, A. Bellosi “Perspectives and potentialities of silicon nitride as nano-structural bio-ceramic”. Proceedings 11th Ceramics, Cells and Tissues Meeting-seminar, “Nanotechnology for functional repair and regenerative medicine” Faenza, 2-5 Ottobre 2007. A. Ravaglioli, A. Krajewski Ed., ISTEC-CNR, Faenza, 2008.

F. Bucciotti, M. Mazzocchi, A. Bellosi, “Perspectives of the Si3N4-TiN ceramic composite as a biomaterial and manufacturing of complex-shaped implantable devices by electrical discharge machining (EDM)”. Journal of Applied Biomaterials & Biomechanics, 2010,  n.1


ISTEC is involved in the microstructural design of the ceramic material to fulfil the required properties for the implant, through the following activities:

  • compositional design and manufacturing of bulk ceramic starting from commercial powders.
  • powder processing
  • sintering in air or by hot pressing, pressureless sintering, gas pressure sintering in inert atmosphere.
  • microstructural characterization by SEM-EDS, XR diffraction
  • mechanical characterization (4-pt flexural strength, fracture toughness, hardness, Young’s modulus, wear).
  • Test of corrosion resistance in physiological solutions and following microstructural characterization by SEM-EDS, X-Ray diffraction.


  • Nanostructured bioceramics for prosthetic orthopaedic and dental applications: processing, surface functionalization and biological evaluation - Nanopro (Progetto della regione Piemonte)
  • Robot manipulator for the reduction of decomposed pelvic and femur fractures Roboman (progetto della regione Piemonte)
  • Centro di Studi sulla Corrosione "Aldo Daccò" (Università di Ferrara)
  • Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario