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The Structure and Properties of Matter

The Structure and Properties of Matter - The Uses of Different Materials According to
Their Properties and Structures

At the end of the lesson, you should be able to relate the properties and structures of
medical implants to their function.

Atoms and molecules combine to form hundreds of thousands of different materials

people use every day. The properties of these materials are influenced by their chemical
structures. In turn, their properties determine their uses.

In this lesson, you will focus on the materials used for medical implants. How are the
basic structures of implants related to their properties and uses?

Last Updated: 08.12.16

Learn about it!

A medical implant is a chemical substance or a device used to replace, support, or
improve a part of the human body. It should be stable, inert, heat-resistant,
biocompatible, and long-lasting.

Materials Used for Medical Implants

In general, the materials used for implants can be categorized into three,
namely, metals, ceramics, and polymers.


Metals have particles that are held together by strong metallic bonds. They are strong
and durable. They are also good conductors of electricity because of the free flowing
Alloys are combinations of one or more metals held together by metallic bonds. They
contain atoms that have different sizes, which distort the regular arrangement of atoms.
This distortion makes it more difficult for the layers of atoms to slide over each other, so
alloys are harder and stronger than most pure metals.

Alloys are often used for load-bearing implants because of their high strength,
durability, and inertness. For example, stainless steel is one of the most common
alloys used in orthopaedic implants, which are medical devices that can replace a
missing joint or support a damaged bone.

Pure metals can also be used as implants. Pure titanium is best used as a pacemaker
case. A pacemaker is a device which uses electrical impulses to regulate heart beats.
Titanium is used because of its high resistance to corrosion and superior

Learn about it!


Ceramics are nonmetallic, inorganic solids with ionic or covalent bonds. They are
commonly used in dental implants, such as crowns, cement, and dentures. They are
hard, inert, and durable materials.

Zirconia ceramic () is a crystalline solid held together by covalent bonds. The strong
bonds and the regularity of the crystalline structure give rise to the high strength and
toughness of the material.

Zirconia is often used in restorative crowns because of its biocompatibility and smooth
surface finish.
Learn about it!

Polymers are molecules with a large number of repeating units of covalently bonded
chain of atoms. They are versatile biomaterials with applications on facial, orthopaedic,
and dental prosthesis.

A common polymer used in implants is silicone. Silicone is polymerized siloxanes. It
contains silicone-oxygen backbone chain with organic side groups bonded to the silicon
Silicone has a long polymer chain. The intermolecular forces of attraction between the
chains are very strong. Therefore, silicone has high strength and durability. Also, its long
chains can uncoil and slide past each other, making the material flexible.

Because of its strength and flexibility, silicone is often used to replace original joint
Try it!
Interview a person that works in the medical field (e.g. nurse, doctor, dentist) or
someone who has experience with medical implants. Try to find out the pros and cons of
having medical implants and the proper ways of taking care of them.

What do you think?

What are the properties of materials used for bone replacements?

Key Points
 Medical implants are substances or devices used to replace, support or
enhance a biological part of the human body.
 Materials used for medical implants can be categorized into three types: metals,
ceramics, and polymers.
 Metals for implants can be pure or alloys (combinations of one or more metals).
They are held together by metallic bonds.
 Ceramics are made up of inorganic and nonmetallic atoms held together by
ionic or covalent bonds.
 Polymers are molecules with a large number of repeating units of covalently
bonded chain of atoms.

Question 1
What are the basic uses of a medical implant?

3support organs and tissues4replace a missing body part
Medical implants are tissues or devices that can replace a missing body part, monitor body functions,
and provide support to organs and tissues.

Next question
1attack foreign substances in the body2monitor body functions
Question 2
Which of the following is not a general type of medical implants?

Ionic is a type of bonding between a metal and a nonmetal.

Next question
Question 3
Which of the following is an ideal property of a medical implant?

Medical implants should be biocompatible. They must not be harmful or toxic to the living tissues.

Next question

Question 4
Which of the following compounds is an example of a ceramic implant?

Zirconia is a nonmetallic inorganic material commonly used in dental implants.

Next question
1zinc alloy2titanium3silicone
Question 5
Which of the following is not a metallic implant?

Silicone is a polymer that contains silicone-oxygen backbone chain with organic side groups bonded
to the silicon atoms.

Next question
1stainless steel2cobalt-base alloy4titanium alloy
Question 6
Which properties of polymers make them usable as replacements of original joint surfaces?

Strong and flexible polymers are best used for replacements of dysfunctional joints surfaces.
Next question

Question 7
Which properties of metals make them usable as pacemakers?

Stable, inert, and strong metals are used in making pacemakers, which are electronic biomedical
devices that regulate human heartbeat. The device contain metallic electrodes that are in direct
contact with the heart.

Next question
1corrosiveness4electrical conductivity

Question 8
A person suffers from a neck injury. The doctor performs surgery by removing a damaged bone
and filling the space with a substitute bone material. Screws and connecting rods are then used to
secure the bones.

Which of the following can be used as the material for the screws and rods?

Titanium can be used as screws and connecting rods for neck and spinal injury because of its high
resistance to corrosion and superior biocompatibility.

Next question
2iron oxide3titanium4silicone

Question 9
Cornea is the transparent front part layer of the eye. It can be damaged by diseases, infection, or
injury. Some people need corneal implants to save their sight.

Which of the following materials can be best used as artificial cornea?

An artificial cornea must be transparent, biocompatible, and elastic. Among the choices, only
polymers can be elastic and transparent. They can be used as cornea implants.

Next question
1pure metal2alloy4ceramic

Question 10
A person loses several teeth in an accident.

Which of the following pairs of materials is best used as teeth replacement?

1zirconia screw and silicone crown
Titanium screws or cylinders act as replacement root for the missing teeth. Zirconia is then used as
the dental crowns because of its smooth surface finish.

Finish quiz
2stainless steel screw and titanium crown3titanium screw and zirconia crown4silicone
screw and titanium crown