Some ceramics, such as Bioglass®, sintered hydroxyapatite, and glass-ceramic A-W, spontaneously bond to living bone. They are called bioactive materials and are already clinically used as important bone substitutes. However, compared with human cortical bone, they have lower fracture toughness and higher elastic moduli. Therefore, it is desirable to develop bioactive materials with improved mechanical properties. All the bioactive materials mentioned above form a bone-like apatite layer on their surfaces in the living body, and bond to bone through this apatite layer. The formation of bone-like apatite on artificial material is induced by functional groups, such as Si-OH, Ti-OH, Zr-OH, Nb-OH, Ta-OH, -COOH, and PO4H2. These groups have specific structures revealing negatively charge, and induce apatite formation via formations of an amorphous calcium compound, e.g., calcium silicate, calcium titanate, and amorphous calcium phosphate. These fundamental findings provide methods for preparing new bioactive materials with different mechanical properties. Tough bioactive materials can be prepared by the chemical treatment of metals and ceramics that have high fracture toughness, e.g., by the NaOH and heat treatments of titanium metal, titanium alloys, and tantalum metal, and by H3PO4 treatment of tetragonal zirconia. Soft bioactive materials can be synthesized by the sol-gel process, in which the bioactive silica or titania is polymerized with a flexible polymer, such as polydimethylsiloxane or polytetramethyloxide, at the molecular level to form an inorganic-organic nano-hybrid. The biomimetic process has been used to deposit nano-sized bone-like apatite on fine polymer fibers, which were textured into a three-dimensional knit framework. This strategy is expected to ultimately lead to bioactive composites that have a bone-like structure and, hence, bone-like mechanical properties.
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