Mimicking the mechanical properties of cortical bone with an additively manufactured biodegradable Zn-3Mg alloy

Yuzhe Zheng, Chengcong Huang, Yageng Li*, Jiaqi Gao, Yabin Yang, Weishi Li, Jie Zhou, Amir A. Zadpoor, Luning Wang*, More Authors

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Additively manufactured (AM) biodegradable zinc (Zn) alloys have recently emerged as promising porous bone-substituting materials, due to their moderate degradation rates, good biocompatibility, geometrically ordered microarchitectures, and bone-mimicking mechanical properties. While AM Zn alloy porous scaffolds mimicking the mechanical properties of trabecular bone have been previously reported, mimicking the mechanical properties of cortical bone remains a formidable challenge. To overcome this challenge, we developed the AM Zn-3Mg alloy. We used laser powder bed fusion to process Zn-3Mg and compared it with pure Zn. The AM Zn-3Mg alloy exhibited significantly refined grains and a unique microstructure with interlaced α-Zn/Mg2Zn11 phases. The compressive properties of the solid Zn-3Mg specimens greatly exceeded their tensile properties, with a compressive yield strength of up to 601 MPa and an ultimate strain of >60 %. We then designed and fabricated functionally graded porous structures with a solid core and achieved cortical bone-mimicking mechanical properties, including a compressive yield strength of >120 MPa and an elastic modulus of ≈20 GPa. The biodegradation rates of the Zn-3Mg specimens were lower than those of pure Zn and could be adjusted by tuning the AM process parameters. The Zn-3Mg specimens also exhibited improved biocompatibility as compared to pure Zn, including higher metabolic activity and enhanced osteogenic behavior of MC3T3 cells cultured with the extracts from the Zn-3Mg alloy specimens. Altogether, these results marked major progress in developing AM porous biodegradable metallic bone substitutes, which paved the way toward clinical adoption of Zn-based scaffolds for the treatment of load-bearing bony defects. Statement of significance: Our study presents a significant advancement in the realm of biodegradable metallic bone substitutes through the development of an additively manufactured Zn-3Mg alloy. This novel alloy showcases refined grains and a distinctive microstructure, enabling the fabrication of functionally graded porous structures with mechanical properties resembling cortical bone. The achieved compressive yield strength and elastic modulus signify a critical leap toward mimicking the mechanical behavior of load-bearing bone. Moreover, our findings reveal tunable biodegradation rates and enhanced biocompatibility compared to pure Zn, emphasizing the potential clinical utility of Zn-based scaffolds for treating load-bearing bony defects. This breakthrough opens doors for the wider adoption of zinc-based materials in regenerative orthopedics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-155
Number of pages17
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care
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  • Biocompatibility
  • Degradation behavior
  • Laser powder bed fusion
  • Mechanical properties
  • Zinc alloy


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