Evelina Enqvist (LTU)

Published: 10 April 2013

Carbon nanofiller reinforced UHMWPE for orthopaedic applications : optimization of manufacturing par

Polymer composites research designed for orthopaedic applications are commonly focused on Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) reinforced by a variety of different nanoparticles. However, the high melt viscosity of UHMWPE renders conventional melt mixing techniques impossible for composite manufacturing. Either solvents that are often difficult to extract from the finished composite or addition of high density polyethylene is necessary in order to use conventional melt mixing techniques. Therefore, solid state mixing is convenient option for manufacturing of UHMWPE based nanocomposites.


The aim of this work is to optimize manufacturing parameters (rotational speed and mixing time) for CNT and ND reinforced UHMWPE prepared by planetary ball milling. Many reports have previously been presented, where UHMWPE has been reinforced by CNTs through ball milling, but typically, only mixing time is presented as the crucial variable in ball milling and the movement of the vials, size of the balls, ball-to-powder mass ratio, mixing media and even rotational speed are often overlooked.


During this work, both multi walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) and nanodiamonds (NDs) as reinforcement in UHMWPE have been studied. Beginning with the optimal speed in a planetary ball mill for CNT reinforcement and continuing to time and mixing media for NDs. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) has been used to study the dispersion of nanoparticles using an extreme high resolution SEM (XHR-SEM). Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) was used to study the thermal properties of the nanocomposite and X-ray diffraction (XRD) was used to complement the crystallinity measurements obtained by DSC. The water contact angles were measured using the sessile drop method.


The results showed changes in morphology on UHMWPE powder due to ball milling, such as flattening, welding of powder and changes in powder particle size. The ball milling procedure also negatively affected the crystallinity of the powder, however the crystallinity of the sintered material did not show this negative trend for all composites. Furthermore, thermal analysis did not show any changes in melting temperatures, which indicates that any thermal effects on the powder due to ball milling is only temporary. SEM analysis also showed that a higher speed and longer mixing times more effectively distribute and break down nanoparticle clusters, but at the expense of flattening of the powder and reduced powder crystallinity. It was also shown that wet mixing with ethanol was more efficient and less detrimental to powder morphology compared to dry mixing. Water contact angles were overall increased for composites compared to UHMWPE.