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Bio-inspired Tribological Interfaces

Final Report Summary - TRIBO-SURFING (Bio-inspired Tribological Interfaces)

Tribology of human tissue, with respect to develop healthcare and lifestyle products that interact with human body, gains much interest recently in the tribology field. Meanwhile, driven by the “green and human friendly tribology” strategies, biomimetics is emerging in tribology, since living creatures have developed highly elaborate systems for decreasing/increasing friction.
The project Bio-inspired Tribological Interfaces is to generate knowledge platforms for the design of human tissue contacting products, based on exploring of nature’s approaches towards the development of anti-frictional systems or frictional systems. Within this project, we explored four concepts related to the development of anti-frictional systems, including the bio-lubrication behavior of synovial joint based on the combined effect of articular cartilage and synovial fluids, the tribological behavior of human skin, the adhesion behavior of cells on polymeric biomaterials, and the aqueous lubrication capability of amphibious fish due to the mucus cells and microridges on their skin. Moreover, one concept related to the development of frictional systems has been explored as well, which is the working principle of porcupine quill, with the microscopic backward-facing deployable barbs featured hairs enabling the easy penetration into tissue while difficult to remove (TOPIC 1).
Based on the understanding of the working principles of these perfect designs from nature, we use these new concepts for the development of environment and human friendly tribological interfaces with improved functionality. The knowledge gained from nature has been transferred for the development of surface/interface layers for reducing friction and wear of articular joint, joint implants and medical sutures, the development of friction increasing system for enhancing the interaction between vertebral pedicle screw and bone (TOPIC 2 & 3), and the development of skin equivalent mimicking the mechanical property, frictional performance, surface physical and chemical properties of human skin (TOPIC 4).
The developed surface/interface layers could reduce the friction of related engineering systems up to 63%, which could potentially increase the use of them for industry applications, not only for the hydration lubrication of joint implants, but also possible for other medical devices, textiles, machine elements in a water environment, etc., with the capability to increase energy efficiency, reduce the pain of patient, and increase the longevity of related medical devices. The developed bio-inspired human skin has been successfully used as Skin Model applied for the development of medical devices like wound dressing and cosmetics, which will largely reduce the variations of test results during laboratory exploration, making researchers easily comparing test results, reducing repeating experiment effort; in the meanwhile, it will largely reduce the time and cost related to in-vivo test by using human subject; and it has the potential to avoid to do ex-vivo tests by using human and/or animal samples. The development of Penetration Friction Apparatus during medical suture study bridged the gap in direct measurement of penetration friction of medical devices like needles and sutures. The analytical contact model and friction model developed during the study of surface texture for comfort touch bring us a useful prediction tool for the efficient design of surface textures to apply onto product surfaces with various materials, achieving comfort and pleasant feel, which is very essential for creative industries like manufacturing, furniture, automotive and textile to create consumer delighted new sustainable multifunctional materials and products.
With the support of this grant, I have published 27 journal articles, 3 book contributions, 29 conference contributions including as conference program chair, 1 keynote lecture and 7 invited lectures, and 4 PhD thesis supervised, 2 master thesis supervised. Furthermore, I have set up my own research line to study the tribological interactions between human tissue and products, focusing on surface/interface layers and bio-inspired approaches. From November 2015, I have become a full professor and established my own Biotribology Laboratory. Currently, I have a group with 2 staff members, 3 PhD researchers, and 2 master students. Based on the above achievements, I have successfully obtained 3 grants from government and 2 from industries for doing research on bio-inspired human skin for in-vitro drug delivery study, bio-inspired transdermal active delivery system, biotribology behavior study of wound dressing (3M), tactile friction and sensory study of cosmetics (Beiersdorf), and bio-inspired tribological interface for enhancing the interaction between vertebral pedicle screw and bone.