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This paper presents microstructural properties and damage behaviour of a vacuum mixed poly(methyl metacrylate) (PMMA) bone cement, during the sliding contact with AISI 316L stainless steel, under micro-loads. Influence of the Ringer's solution on the wear was analysed in comparison to dry contact. The variation of load did not produce any significant change of the wear factor while the increase in the sliding speed induced significant increases in the wear factor, more pronounced in the case of dry sliding. The obtained wear factors were in average higher for the sliding in Ringer's solution than those obtained under dry conditions. Significant fragmentation of the worn tracks, of irregular shapes with broken edges, was observed, slightly more pronounced for the dry contact. Many cavities and voids were formed on the wear track surface, but they did not extend into the bulk material. Higher loads produced more uniform and less fragmented wear tracks. Abrasive, adhesive wear and plastic deformation grooves were observed, as well as fatigue and erosive wear. Fatigue cracks developed in the direction normal to sliding. Network of fine craze cracks was exhibited on the surface of wear tracks, especially pronounced in the case of dry sliding. These results are important since they contribute to understanding the sites of crack initiation, and development mechanisms on the surface of PMMA bone cements, also including synergistic effects of physiological environments pertaining to the non-steady crack and craze behaviour and crack pattern development in PMMA.
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