Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Biodegradable Metals for Medical Devices

Biodegradable Metals for Medical Devices

The goal of this project is to develop novel biodegradable metals/alloys to be used in orthopedic, cardiovascular, and tracheal medical devices, among many others. These metals are being pursued to avoid complications associated with inert, non-degradable metallic biomaterials such as stainless steel, titanium, and cobalt-chromium alloys. In addition, mechanical properties of biodegradable metals are also superior to resorbable polymers used in medical device implants.

Our research in this area primarily focuses on magnesium and iron based alloy development, with evaluation of their degradation behavior, mechanical properties, and cytocompatibility in suitable physiological conditions. We utilize a variety of processing techniques to tailor the alloys’ properties to suit specifications according to the clinical need. Various processing techniques currently being explored for developing Mg and Fe based alloys include methods such as permanent mold gravity casting, rapid solidification, high energy mechanical alloying, isostatic pressing, and inkjet 3D printing, as well as post-processing routes such as hot extrusion and rolling, and heat treatments. Magnesium and iron based alloys currently developed in our group have demonstrated improved biodegradation behavior compared to their pure metal counterparts, as well as high mechanical properties after post-processing regimes.

These projects are being conducted as part of the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (http://erc.ncat.edu) for which collaborations are ongoing with the goal of designing, manufacturing, and testing in vivo medical devices made from the degradable metals. Our alloys have been fabricated into devices such as stents, fixation plates and screws, and tested in animal models.


Magnesium alloy fixation plate and screws implanted to stabilize a rabbit ulna fracture. Study conducted in collaboration with Drs. Charles Sfeir, Spandan Maiti, and Howard Kuhn.


SEM image of fixed MC3T3 pre-osteoblast cells seeded directly onto a 3D printed iron alloy scaffold after 3 days of culture, showing cells infiltrating into the open porosity. Project conducted in collaboration with Dr. Kuhn and Ex One Company.


Chou D, Wells D, Hong D, Lee B, Kuhn HA, Kumta PN. Novel processing of Iron-Manganese alloy based biomaterials by inkjet 3D printing. Acta Biomaterialia. Epub ahead of print, 2013.

Datta MK, Chou D, Hong D, Saha P, Chung SJ, Lee B, Sirinterlikci A, Ramanathana M, Roy A, Kumta PN. Structure and Thermal Stability of Biodegradable Mg-Zn-Ca based Amorphous Alloys Synthesized by Mechanical Alloying. Mater. Sci. Eng., B. Proceeding of 2nd Symposium on Biodegradable Metals. 176 (20) 1637-1643, 2011.

Affiliated Lab Members: Dr. Partha Saha, Da-Tren Chou, Dae Ho Hong, Jingyao Wu

Collaborators & Affiliations: NSF Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials