Nanomechanical and Microstructural Characterization of Biocompatible Ti3Au Thin Films Grown on Glass and Ti6Al4V Substrates

Cecil Cherian Lukose, Ioannis Anestopoulos, Mihalis I. Panayiotidis, Martin Birkett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ti-Au intermetallic-based material systems are being extensively studied as next-generation thin film coatings to extend the lifetime of implant devices. These coatings are being developed for application to the articulating surfaces of total joint implants and, therefore, must have excellent biocompatibility combined with superior mechanical hardness and wear resistance. However, these key characteristics of Ti-Au coatings are heavily dependent upon factors such as the surface properties and temperature of the underlying substrate during thin film deposition. In this work, Ti 3Au thin films were deposited by magnetron sputtering on both glass and Ti 6Al 4V substrates at an ambient and elevated substrate temperature of 275 °C. These films were studied for their mechanical properties by the nanoindentation technique in both variable load and fixed load mode using a Berkovich tip. XRD patterns and cross-sectional SEM images detail the microstructure, while AFM images present the surface morphologies of these Ti 3Au thin films. The biocompatibility potential of the films is assessed by cytotoxicity tests in L929 mouse fibroblast cells using Alamar blue assay, while leached ion concentrations in the film extracts are quantified using ICPOEMS. The standard deviation for hardness of films deposited on glass substrates is ∼4 times lower than that on Ti 6Al 4V substrates and is correlated with a corresponding increase in surface roughness from 2 nm for glass to 40 nm for Ti 6Al 4V substrates. Elevating substrate temperature leads to an increase in film hardness from 5.1 to 8.9 GPa and is related to the development of a superhard β phase of the Ti 3Au intermetallic. The standard deviation of this peak mechanical hardness value is reduced by ∼3 times when measured in fixed load mode compared to the variable load mode due to the effect of nanoindentation tip penetration depth. All tested Ti-Au thin films also exhibit excellent biocompatibility against L929 fibroblast cells, as viability levels are above 95% and leached Ti, Al, V, and Au ion concentrations are below 0.1 ppm. Overall, this work demonstrates a novel Ti 3Au thin film system with a unique combination of high hardness and excellent biocompatibility with potential to be developed into a new wear-resistant coating to extend the lifetime of articulating total joint implants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2935–2944
Number of pages10
JournalACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering
Issue number5
Early online date17 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2024

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