Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Engineering - Materials Engineering


Materials Engineering


Dr. Trevor Harding



The Characterization and Analysis of In-vitro and Elevated Temperature Repassivation of

Ti-6Al-4V via AFM Techniques

Aaron J Guerrero

Research in the corrosion of orthopaedic implants is a growing research field where implants have been known to show adverse effects in patients who have encountered the unfortunate dissolution of their implants due to corrosion. Once corrosion begins within the body, many adverse biological reactions can occur such as late on-set infections resulting in severe health complications. The focus of this research is specifically related to the problem of late on-set infections caused by localized corrosion of orthopaedic implants. In medical implants today the most common form of corrosion protection is the implant materials’ ability to impede corrosion through the formation of an oxide layer. This ability to passivate and quickly repassivate a uniform and stable oxide layer dictates how well an orthopaedic implant will survive in-vivo.

To better understand the repassivation of orthopaedic implant materials, research was conducted at the nanoscale via atomic force microscopy (AFM) on anodized Ti-6Al-4V. Using an Asylum Research MFP-3DTM AFM and AFM lithography techniques, nano scratch test methods were created simulating in-vitro surface repassivation conditions. These nano-scratches were created and characterized in Hank’s balanced saline solution (HBSS) with the AFM in contact mode at 1 and 3 Hz scan rates. HBSS was used as it best simulates the pH, ionic compounds, and constituents that are commonly found in blood. It was discovered that the AFM was successful in creating in-vitro repassivation conditions. However, the ability of the AFM to successfully observe repassivation was limited by the speed of the AFM scanner.

Using the same AFM scratch methods, experiments were performed in air and in-vitro and characterized with AFM conductance measurements at 20, 37, & 45 °C. The conductance measurements were taken using an AFM conductance module and allowed for observations of decreasing current measurements over time. The current data was then used to calculate current density, resistivity, conductance, and electron mobility and compared to similar experiments

This study highlights the ability of the AFM to create and characterize repassivation and shows promise in developing further capability to use the AFM for characterization of repassivation on the nanoscale.

Keywords: Orthopaedics, late on-set infections, repassivation, AFM, lithography, conductive measurements.