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The influence of gamma irradiation and aging on degradation mechanisms of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Jim White


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The aging behavior of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) has been studied following gamma irradiation in air. Accelerated aging procedures used elevated temperature (70°C), pressurized oxygen (5 bar) and applied stress. Shelf and in vivo aged components have also been investigated. The variation in polymer properties with depth into the polymer was determined using density measurements, infra-red spectroscopy and differential scanning calorimetry. Accelerated aging in pressurized oxygen resulted in peaks in polymer density and degree of oxidation up to 500 μm below the polymer surface. Shelf and in vivo aging was also found to result in increased density at or below the component surfaces. Changes in density were mainly due to changes in crystallinity within the UHMWPE and, to a smaller extent, due to oxygen incorporation within the polymer. The application of stress did not appear to influence the accelerated aging of UHMWPE. A method for estimating the residual stress distribution in the UHMWPE using the measured changes in density is proposed. This study has indicated that oxidation of UHMWPE may lead to the development of tensile residual stresses, near the component surface, in the region of 1.7 MPa. These stresses may contribute to the failure mechanism of UHMWPE acetabular cups or knee tibial trays during service. © 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Publication metadata

Author(s): White JR; Buchanan FJ; Sim B; Downes S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine

Year: 2001

Volume: 12

Issue: 1

Pages: 29-37

Print publication date: 01/01/2001

ISSN (print): 0957-4530

ISSN (electronic): 1573-4838

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1023/A:1026796817483


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