Near-Surface Nanomechanics of Medical-Grade PEEK Measured by Atomic Force Microscopy

Marco Bontempi, Rosario Capozza, Andrea Visani, Milena Fini, Gianluca Giavaresi, Alessandro Gambardella*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Detecting subtle changes of surface stiffness at spatial scales and forces relevant to biological processes is crucial for the characterization of biopolymer systems in view of chemical and/or physical surface modification aimed at improving bioactivity and/or mechanical strength. Here, a standard atomic force microscopy setup is operated in nanoindentation mode to quantitatively mapping the near-surface elasticity of semicrystalline polyether ether ketone (PEEK) at room temperature. Remarkably, two localized distributions of moduli at about 0.6 and 0.9 GPa are observed below the plastic threshold of the polymer, at indentation loads in the range of 120–450 nN. This finding is ascribed to the localization of the amorphous and crystalline phases on the free surface of the polymer, detected at an unprecedented level of detail. Our study provides insights to quantitatively characterize complex biopolymer systems on the nanoscale and to guide the optimal design of micro- and nanostructures for advanced biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number718
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Early online date31 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • atomic force microscopy
  • biopolymers
  • elasticity
  • nanoindentation
  • nanomechanical mapping
  • orthopedics
  • PEEK


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