Biomaterials by Freeze Casting

The functional requirements for synthetic tissue substitutes appear deceptively simple: they should provide a porous matrix with interconnecting porosity and surface properties that promote rapid tissue ingrowth; at the same time, they should possess sufficient stiffness, strength, and toughness to prevent crushing under physiological loads until full integration and healing are reached. Despite extensive efforts and first encouraging results, current biomaterials for tissue regeneration tend to suffer common limitations: insufficient tissue-material interaction and an inherent lack of strength and toughness associated with porosity. The challenge persists to synthesize materials that mimic both structure and mechanical performance of the natural tissue and permit strong tissue-implant interfaces to be formed. In the case of bone substitute materials, for example, the goal is to engineer high-performance composites with effective properties that, similar to natural mineralized tissue, exceed by orders of magnitude the properties of its constituents. It is still difficult with current technology to emulate in synthetic biomaterials multi-level hierarchical composite structures that are thought to be the origin of the observed mechanical property amplification in biological materials. Freeze casting permits to manufacture such complex, hybrid materials through excellent control of structural and mechanical properties. As a processing technique for the manufacture of biomaterials, freeze casting therefore has great promise.

Faculty contact: Ulrike G.K. Wegst