Mechanical Properties of Porous β‑Tricalcium Phosphate Composites Prepared by Ice-Templating and Poly(ε-caprolactone) Impregnation

In this study ceramic scaffolds of the bioresorbable and osteoconductive bioceramic β-tricalcium phosphate (β-TCP) were impregnated with the bioresorbable and ductile polymer poly­(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) to investigate the influence of the impregnation on the mechanical properties of the porous composites. The initial β-TCP scaffolds were fabricated by the ice-templating method and exhibit the typical morphology of aligned, open, and lamellar pores. This pore morphology seems to be appropriate for applications as bone replacement material. The macroporosity of the scaffolds is mostly preserved during the solution-mediated PCL impregnation as the polymer was added only in small amounts so that only the micropores of β-TCP lamellae were infiltrated and the surface of the lamellae were coated with a thin film. Composite scaffolds show a failure behavior with brittle and plastic contributions, which increase their damage tolerance, in contrast to the absolutely brittle behavior of pure β-TCP scaffolds. The energy consumption during bending and compression load was increased in the impregnated scaffolds by (a) elastic and plastic deformation of the introduced polymer, (b) drawing and formation of PCL fibrils which bridge micro- and macrocracks, and (c) friction of ceramic debris still glued together by PCL. PCL addition also increased the compressive and flexural strength of the scaffolds. An explanatory model for this strength enhancement was proposed that implicates the stiffening of cold-drawn PCL present in surface flaws and micropores.