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Hemijska industrija 2007 Volume 61, Issue 5, Pages: 229-232
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Supercritical CO2 impregnation of polyethylene components for medical purposes

Gamse Thomas, Marr Rolf, Wolf Christian, Lederer Klaus

Modem hip and knee endoprosthesis are produced in titanium and to reduce the friction at the contact area polymer parts, mainly ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW-PE), are installed. The polyethylene is impregnated with a-tocopherol (vitamin E) before processing for remarkable decrease of oxidative degradation. Cross linked UHMW-PE offers much higher stability, but a-tocopherol cannot be added before processing, because a-tocopherol hinders the cross linking process accompanied by a heavy degradation of the vitamin. The impregnation of UHMW-PE with a-tocopherol has to be performed after the cross linking process and an accurate concentration has to be achieved over the cross section of the whole material. In the first tests UHMW-PE-cubes were stored in pure a-tocopherol under inert atmosphere at temperatures from 100 to 150 °C resulting in a high mass fraction of a-tocopherol in the edge zones and no constant concentration over the cross section. For better distribution and for regulating the mass fraction of a-tocopherol in the cross linked UHMW-PE material supercritical CO2 impregnation tests were investigated. Again UHMW-PE-cubes were impregnated in an autoclave with a-tocopherol dissolved in supercritical CO2 at different pressures and temperatures with variable impregnation times and vitamin E concentrations. Based on the excellent results of supercritical CO2 impregnation standard hip and knee cups were stabilized nearly homogeneously with varying mass fraction of a-tocopherol.

Keywords: supercritical CO2, impregnation, polymer, endo-prostheses

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