Investigation of techniques for the measurement of articular cartilage surface roughness

Ghosh, Siddharth; Bowen, James; Jiang, Kyle; Espino, Daniel M. and Shepherd, Duncan E. T. (2013). Investigation of techniques for the measurement of articular cartilage surface roughness. Micron, 44 pp. 179–184.



Articular cartilage is the bearing surface of synovial joints and plays a crucial role in the tribology to enable low friction joint movement. A detailed understanding of the surface roughness of articular cartilage is important to understand how natural joints behave and the parameters required for future joint replacement materials. Bovine articular cartilage on bone samples was prepared and the surface roughness was measured using scanning electron microscopy stereoscopic imaging at magnifications in the range 500× to 2000×. The surface roughness (two-dimensional, Ra, and three-dimensional, Sa) of each sample was then measured using atomic force microscopy (AFM). For stereoscopic imaging the surface roughness was found to linearly increase with increasing magnification. At a magnification of 500× the mean surface roughness, Ra, was in the range 165.4±5.2nm to 174±39.3 nm; total surface roughness Sa was in the range 183–261 nm. The surface roughness measurements made using AFM showed Ra in the range 82.6±4.6nm to 114.4±44.9nm and Sa in the range 86–136 nm. Values obtained using SEM stereo imaging were always larger than those obtained using AFM. Stereoscopic imaging can be used to investigate the surface roughness of articular cartilage. The variations seen between measurement techniques show that when making comparisons between the surface roughness of articular cartilage it is important that the same technique is used.

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