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By Harry Skinner

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All polymers are composed of long chains of repeating units. These units may form linear, cross-linked, or branched chains. The individual chains may be organized in an orderly crystalline form having parallel or folded chains, or they may have an amorphous structure or a mixed structure. The molecular weight, chemical composition, degree of crystallinity, size and polarity of side groups, and degree of cross-linking determine the mechanical properties of the polymer. In general, as the molecular weight and crystallinity increase, the tensile strength and the resistance to cracking increase.

Designs to circumvent this problem have fixed an alumina bearing component inside a metal ingrowth cup, so the bone can grow into a porous metal surface. Ceramic-on-polyethylene articulations show clinical promise, however. Aluminum oxide has excellent wear characteristics, and any ceramic wear debris that does accumulate at the interface may be less bioreactive than polyethylene or PMMA wear debris. Alumina-on-alumina articulations demonstrate very low wear rates when clinically applied with a metal shell for attachment to acetabular bone.

9 GPa. The higher the impurity content of the metal, the higher the strength and brittleness. Titanium and zirconium can be alloyed together and in combination with a variety of other metals, including niobium, tantalum, molybdenum, and iron. Because of their low density, these alloys have superior specific strength (strength per density) over all other metals. Titanium has poor shear strength and wear resistance, however, making it unsuitable for applications involving articulating surfaces. It also exhibits notch sensitivity, which means that a small flaw or crack on the surface, such as might occur with mechanical damage, can cause a tremendous reduction in strength and increase the susceptibility to fracture.

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