Journal of Minerals & Materials Characterization & Engineering, Vol. 10, No.11, pp.1041-1049, 2011 Printed in the USA. All rights reserved
Characterization of Plasma Sprayed Hydroxyapatite Coatings on AISI 316L
SS and Titanium Substrate and their Corrosion Behavior
in Simulated Body Fluid
Manoj Mittal
*, S. K. Nath
, Satya Prakash
Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department,
Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Civil lines, Roorkee-247667, India
*Corresponding author:
In order to increase the bone bioactivity of metallic implants, hydroxyapatite (HA:
) is often coated on their surface so that real bond with surrounding bone tissue
can be formed. In present study, HA coatings were deposited on AISI 316L SS and titanium using
shrouded plasma spray process. The coated specimens were subjected to X-ray diffraction
(XRD) analysis, field emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM/EDAX). The polarization
studies in simulated body fluid (SBF) were conducted to evaluate the corrosion resistance of
bare and coated specimens. It was found that the hydroxyapatite coating provided excellent
corrosion resistance. The resistance to corrosion was found independent on substrates
Keywords: Corrosion, Polarization, Hydroxyapatite.
Metallic materials such as AISI 316L SS, Ti and its alloys and Co-Cr alloys are commonly
employed as orthopedic implants because of their high strength (compared to polymers) and high
toughness (compared to ceramic materials) [1]. However, metallic materials are susceptible to
corrosive attack by body fluid, with subsequent release of metallic ions, which causes adverse
effects to surrounding tissues [2]. Moreover, metallic surfaces may be bioinert up to some extent
but not adequately bioactive and surface treatment is usually required to make them bioactive
and biocompatible. Hydroxyapatite can bond to living bony tissues and it is being widely used in
1042 Manoj Mittal, S. K. Nath, Satya Prakash Vol.10, No.11
clinical applications. Plasma spraying is most popular method due to its feasibility and low
operational cost. Plasma sprayed HA coatings bear good mechanical properties [3].
The corrosion resistance of HA coatings on various metallic substrates in different physiological
solutions has been investigated by many researchers [4-8]. Kwok et al. reported that HA coated
Ti-6Al-4V possessed higher corrosion resistance compared to uncoated Ti-6Al-4V substrate in
Hank’s physiological solution due to lower corrosion current density and noble shift of open-
circuit potential [4]. Corrosion resistance of Ni-Ti alloy in simulated body fluid (SBF) was
improved by almost 60 times by electrodeposition of HA-zirconia composite coating [5]. Bai et
al. deposited CNT- HA coatings on titanium substrate and found better protection efficiency and
good biocompatibility in SBF [6]. Gopi and co-workers deposited HA coatings on borate
passivated 316L SS and studied corrosion behavior of coatings in Ringer’s solution. They
reported polarization potential values of HA coated 316L SS to be nobler than uncoated SS
specimens [7]. Hydroxyapatite coated magnesium metal specimen treated with 50 mol/m
EDTA/ 50 mol/m
solution for 8, 16 and 24h subsequently tested for corrosion
resistance in 3.5 wt% NaCl solution by Hiromoto and Yamamoto. They reported that HA coated
magnesium specimens were 1000 times lesser anodic current density compared to bare
magnesium [8].
In present study, hydroxyapatite was deposited on AISI 316L SS and pure titanium using
shrouded plasma spray process. The corrosion behavior of the bare and coated specimens was
carried out in simulated body fluid. The experiments were conducted for open circuit potential
(OCP) and potentiodynamic polarization. The HA coatings offered better corrosion resistance
compared to AISI 316L SS and titanium.
2.1 Development of Coatings
2.1.1 Substrate material and coating formulation
The AISI 316L stainless steel and pure titanium, being bio-inert, were selected as substrate
materials in rolled sheet form. Specimens with approximate dimensions 20 mm x 10 mm x 5 mm
were cut from metallic sheet and polished with SiC paper down to 220 grit and subsequently grit
blasted with alumina powder (Grit 45). The surface was air blasted to remove residual grit. The
specimens were cleaned ultrasonically for 20 min in acetone and alcohol prior to deposition of
coating by shrouded plasma spraying process. The HA powder having 100% crystallinity with
average particle size of 45 µm, a blend of finer and coarse particles (Captal 60 – 1’) was
commercially obtained from Plasma Biotal Limited, UK. The weight percentage of heavy metals
was less than 0.003% as certified by Exova (UK) Limited. The specimens were coated up to a
coating thickness of 150 – 170 µm using a 40 kW Miller thermal plasma spray apparatus
available at Anod Plasma Limited, Kanpur, India. Argon was used as powder carrying and
Vol.10, No.11 Characterization of Plasma Sprayed Hydroxyapatite Coatings 1043
shielding gas. All process parameters were kept constant and spray distance was in a narrow
range of 90 – 110 mm throughout the coating process. The process conditions were as reported
in Table 1.
Table 1. Plasma spraying parameters employed for coatings
Arc current (A) 750
Arc voltage (V) 40
Powder flow rate (rev/min) 5.5
Spraying distance (mm) 90 - 110
Plasma arc gas (Argon) (psi) 60
Carrier gas (Argon) (psi) 40
Nozzle internal diameter (mm) 8
Coating thickness (µm) 150 – 200
2.1.2. Characterization of the coatings
XRD analysis was carried out on powder and as coated specimens using a Bruker AXS D-8
Advanced diffractometer (Germany) with Cu Kα radiation with scanning speed of 1º/min in a
scan range of 10 – 60º (2θ) at 40 kW and 100mA. A Quanta 200 F field emission scanning
electron microscope fitted with EDAX Genesis software attachment (Czech Republic) was used
for SEM/EDAX analysis. The porosity of the coatings along the polished cross-section and on as
sprayed coatings was measured with an image analyzer using Dewinter Material Plus 1.01
software based on ASTM B276. A PME3 inverted metallurgical microscope (Olympus, Japan)
was used to obtain the images. The average of ten randomly selected points is reported. The
surface roughness (Ra) of as-sprayed specimens was measured with non-contact optical
profilometer (Wyco NT1100, Veecco Instruments Inc., USA) with software Vision-32. Twenty
points, five in each orthogonal direction were selected to measure surface roughness. To identify
the cross-section details, the samples were cut in cross-section, mounted and subjected to mirror
polishing using 1µm alumina powder suspension in water. The specimens were cleaned
ultrasonically and subsequently gold sputter coated using Leica Microsystems cool sputter coater
(Model: EM SCD 005, USA). The coating thickness was measured by taking back scattered
electron image (BSEI) with FE-SEM using a solid state detector (SSD).
2.2 Electrochemical Experimentation
2.2.1 Simulated body fluid
Simulate body fluid used for electrochemical experiments was prepared in accordance with
reference 9 [9]. The details of chemical reagents used are described in Table 2.
1044 Manoj Mittal, S. K. Nath, Satya Prakash Vol.10, No.11
Table 2 Composition of chemical reagents for preparation of one litre SBF.
NaCl 8.035g
KCl 0.225g
O 0.231g
· 6H
O 0.311g
1.0 M HCl 39ml
Tris buffer 6.118g
To avoid precipitation of apatite smooth plastic containers (without any scratch) were used.
These were soaked in dilute NaCl solution for 12h, washed with distilled water and rinsed with
double distilled water before using. The reagents were weighed using digital electronic balance
with accuracy of 10
kg. Before using simulated body fluid for experiments, it was kept at 25ºC
for 24h to check any precipitation.
2.2.2 Polarization experiments
The corrosion behavior of substrate materials and coatings was evaluated in simulated body fluid
by open circuit potential and potentiodyanic tests at room temperature. The polarization tests
were conducted using Priston Applied Research Advanced Electrochemical System (Model:
PARSTAT 2273) equipped with Power Suit software. Two highly pure graphite rods were used
as counter electrodes and saturated calomel electrode (SCE) was reference electrode in the
electrochemical cell. To make exposed area of specimen 1 cm
, the excess area was first covered
with plastic tape and then painted with non toxic paint. The specimens were ultrasonically
cleaned in double distilled water for 15 min prior to immersing in cell. The specimens were
allowed to get stabilized at OCP for 30 min. The linear polarization tests were conducted in
range of ±20 mV with respect to corrosion potential (E
), potentiodynamic polarization tests
were carried out in range -250 mV w.r.t. OCP and 1.6V w.r.t. SCE with a scan rate of 0.25 mV/s.
3.1 Characterization of Coatings
The SEM image of the as-coated specimen (Fig. 1) shows some unmelted HA particles on the
surface of completely molten HA splats with very fine cracks within the splats. The overall
Vol.10, No.11 Characterization of Plasma Sprayed Hydroxyapatite Coatings 1045
coating is massive with very low porosity. Characteristic plasma coating microstructure was
observed on the coated surface. The unmelted HA particles have spherical morphology.
Fig. 1 FE-SEM image of plasma sprayed HA coating showing morphology of as-sprayed
Compared to average particle size of HA powder (45 µm), the unmelted HA particles are smaller
in size (5 – 8 µm), which suggests that these particles are unmelted cores. The degree of particle
melt in plasma spray process depends upon many factors such as heat content of plasma to which
they are exposed, location of particles in plasma, velocity and size of particles. The formation of
cracks is due to production of amorphous phases while spraying. Thermal coefficient mismatch
between HA and metallic substrate and rapid cooling process of molten splats are inherent to HA
coating developed by plasma spraying. The EDAX analysis of as coated HA coating (Fig.1)
shows the presence of Ca (48-50 wt%), P (25-26 wt%) and O (24-27 wt%). Substrate elements
are not present in EDAX analysis, which may be due to sufficient coating thickness.
The thickness of the coatings was measured from the BSEIs taken along cross-section of the
mounted specimens (Fig. 2). The thickness of the coatings was in the range 150 – 170 µm. As
shown in Fig 2a (HA coating on AISI 316L SS) the micro-pores and macro-pores are present in
the coating, the macro-pores are partly due to grinding and polishing process during cross-
section preparation. HA coating on titanium substrate showed similar microstructure (Fig. 2b).
The porosity measurements were taken on the as sprayed surface and the polished cross-section
of the plasma sprayed HA coatings and is reported in Table 3. The average surface roughness
values (Ra) with standard deviation of as-sprayed coatings are also reported in Table 3.
1046 Manoj Mittal, S. K. Nath, Satya Prakash Vol.10, No.11
Fig. 2. BSEI showing cross-section morphology of HA coatings on different substrates: (a) AISI
316L SS and (b) Titanium.
Table 3. Porosity and roughness of HA coatings.
Sample Porosity (%) Porosity (%) Roughness
on cross-section on as coated surface Ra (µm)
HA coated SS 7.11 ± 0.16 (10) 3.31 ± 0.182(10) 5.21 ± 0.87 (20)
HA coated Ti 7.02 ± 0.14 (10) 3.21 ± 0.185 (10) 5.52 ± 0.45 (20)
Note: The number in parenthesis represents the sample size.
X-ray diffractograms for as-sprayed HA coatings on different substrate and as-received powder
are presented in Fig. 3. The XRD of HA powder shows sharp, high intensity peaks with no
background halo of amorphous phases (Fig. 3a). The as-sprayed coating contains amorphous
phases such as di-calcium phosphate at 21.9°, 49.7° and 53.3° (2θ), tricalcium phosphate at 23°
(2θ) and calcium oxide at 37.35° (2θ) (Fig. 3b and c). The peak broadening and low intensity of
peaks in XRD pattern symbolize the presence of amorphous phases.
3.2 Electrochemical Tests
Specimens were immersed in SBF with cell off mode and open circuit potential was allowed to
stabilize for 30 min and results are presented in Fig. 4. The open circuit potential obtained were:
AISI 316L SS: -0.104; Ti: -0.075; HA coated AISI 316L SS: -0.120 and HA coated Ti: -0.068
mV respectively. Potentiodynamic polarization curves of specimens are shown in Fig.5 and
results are presented in Table 4.
Vol.10, No.11 Characterization of Plasma Sprayed Hydroxyapatite Coatings 1047
Fig. 3 X-ray diffraction patterns: (a) as-received powder (b) HA coated AISI 316L SS and (c)
HA coated titanium (C: CaO; T: TCP; D: DCPA; unmarked peaks: HA).
Fig. 4 Open circuit potential of substrates and coatings: (a) AISI 316L SS; (b) titanium; (c) HA
coated AISI 316L SS and (d) HA coated titanium.
02 0 04 0 06 008 0 01 0 0 01 2 0 01 4 0 01 6 0 01 8 0 02 0 0 0
- 0. 5
- 0. 4
- 0. 3
- 0. 2
- 0. 1
(d )
(c )
(b )
(a )
Open circuit potential (mV)
Tim e (s)
1048 Manoj Mittal, S. K. Nath, Satya Prakash Vol.10, No.11
Fig. 5 Potentiodynamic plots for substrates and coatings: (a) AISI 316L SS; (b) titanium; (c)
HA coated AISI 316L SS and (d) HA coated titanium.
Table 4. Results of potentiodynamic polarization experiments conducted on substrates and
Specimen E
(mV) (µA/cm
) (V/decade) (V/decade) (k-cm
AISI 316L SS -157.8 0.233 0.0523 0.0773 84.37
Ti -183.4 0.0693 0.0971 0.233 429.59
HA coated SS 121.2 0.0094 0.0611 0.242 2253.2
HA coated Ti 138.71 0.0091 0.06 0.24 2283.4
-10-9 -8 -7 -6 -5 -4 -3 -2
(d) (c)
E (mV)
I {log(A/cm
Vol.10, No.11 Characterization of Plasma Sprayed Hydroxyapatite Coatings 1049
The corrosion parameters i.e. i
and E
are obtained with help of power suit software by curve
fitting technique. The corrosion resistance of substrates has been enhanced by coating. The i
for AISI 316L and Ti are 0.233 and 0.0693 µA/cm
and for coatings 0.0094 and 0.0091 µA/cm
respectively, which suggests that coating were protective, crack free and with low level of
porosity. The corrosion resistance of coated specimens is independent to corrosion resistance of
Hydroxyapatite coatings were successfully deposited on AISI 316L SS and titanium substrates
using shrouded plasma spraying process. The microstructural morphology, phases and
electrochemical properties of the coatings were investigated in the present work. The as sprayed
coatings were massive and crack free with low level of porosity. Various calcium phosphates
such as dicalcium phosphate, tricalcium phosphate and calcium oxide were present in the as
sprayed coatings. The results of polarization studies show that the corrosion resistance of
coatings was independent of substrates. Plasma sprayed hydroxyapatite coatings can be used to
enhance the corrosion resistance of metallic implants in harsh body fluid environment.
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