Fracture toughness and fatigue crack propagation rate of short fiber reinforced epoxy composites for analogue cortical bone

Alexander C.M. Chong, Forrest Miller, McKee Buxton, Elizabeth A. Friis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Third-generation mechanical analogue bone models and synthetic analogue cortical bone materials manufactured by Pacific Research Laboratories, Inc. (PRL) are popular tools for use in mechanical testing of various orthopedic implants and biomaterials. A major issue with these models is that the current third-generation epoxy-short fiberglass based composite used as the cortical bone substitute is prone to crack formation and failure in fatigue or repeated quasistatic loading of the model. The purpose of the present study was to compare the tensile and fracture mechanics properties of the current baseline (established PRL "third-generation" E-glass-fiber-epoxy) composite analogue for cortical bone to a new composite material formulation proposed for use as an enhanced fourth-generation cortical bone analogue material. Standard tensile, plane strain fracture toughness, and fatigue crack propagation rate tests were performed on both the third-and fourth-generation composite material formulations using standard ASTM test techniques. Injection molding techniques were used to create random fiber orientation in all test specimens. Standard dog-bone style tensile specimens were tested to obtain ultimate tensile strength and stiffness. Compact tension fracture toughness specimens were utilized to determine plane strain fracture toughness values. Reduced thickness compact tension specimens were also used to determine fatigue crack propagation rate behavior for the two material groups. Literature values for the same parameters for human cortical bone were compared to results from the third- and fourth-generation cortical analogue bone materials. Tensile properties of the fourth-generation material were closer to that of average human cortical bone than the third-generation material. Fracture toughness was significantly increased by 48% in the fourth-generation composite as compared to the third-generation analogue bone. The threshold stress intensity to propagate the crack was much higher for the fourth-generation material than for the third-generation composite. Even at the higher stress intensity threshold, the fatigue crack propagation rate was significantly decreased in the fourth-generation composite compared to the third-generation composite. These results indicate that the bone analogue models made from the fourth-generation analogue cortical bone material may exhibit better performance in fracture and longer fatigue lives than similar models made of third-generation analogue cortical bone material. Further fatigue testing of the new composite material in clinically relevant use of bone models is still required for verification of these results. Biomechanical test models using the superior fourth-generation cortical analogue material are currently in development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-493
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Composite
  • Cortical bone
  • Fatigue
  • Fracture toughness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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