Nanomechanical tribological characterisation of nanostructured titanium alloy surfaces using AFM: A friction vs velocity study

Jonathan Wood, Andrew Hayles, Richard Bright, Dennis Palms, Krasimir Vasilev, Jafar Hasan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Medical-grade titanium alloys used for orthopaedic implants are at risk from infections and complications such as wear and tear. We have recently shown that hydrothermally etched (HTE) nanostructures (NS) formed on the Ti6AlV4 alloy surfaces impart enhanced anti-bacterial activity which results in inhibited formation of bacterial biofilm. Although these titanium alloy nanostructures may resist bacterial colonisation, their frictional properties are yet to be understood. Orthopaedic devices are encapsulated by bone and muscle tissue. Contact friction between orthopaedic implant surfaces and these host tissues may trigger inflammation, osteolysis and wear. To address these challenges, we performed simulation of the contact behaviour between a smooth control Ti6Al4V alloy and HTE surfaces against a hardwearing SiO2 sphere using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) in Lateral Force Microscopy mode. The friction study was evaluated in both air and liquid environments at high (5 Hz) and low (0.5 Hz) scan velocities. Lower scan velocities demonstrated opposing friction force changes between the two mediums, with friction stabilising at higher velocities. The friction measured on the NS alloy surfaces was reduced by ~20% in air and ~80% in phosphate buffered saline, in comparison to the smooth control surface, displaying a non-linear behaviour of the force applied by the AFM tip. Changes in friction values and cantilever scan velocities on different substrates are discussed with respect to the Stribeck curve. Reduced friction on nanostructured surfaces may improve wear resistance and aid osseointegration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112600
Number of pages9
JournalColloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • AFM
  • Friction
  • Lateral force microscopy
  • Nanomechanical characterisation
  • Nanostructures


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