Multi-scale experimental work was carried out to characterize cortical bone as a heterogeneous material with hierarchical structure, which spans from nanoscale (mineralized collagen fibril), sub-microscale (single lamella), microscale (lamellar structures), to mesoscale (cortical bone) levels. Sections from femoral cortical bone from 6, 12, and 42 months old swines were studied to quantify the age-related changes in bone structure, chemical composition, and mechanical properties. The structural changes with age from sub-microscale to mesoscale levels were investigated with scanning electron microscopy and micro-computed tomography. The chemical compositions at mesoscale were studied by ash content method and dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, and at microscale by Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy. The mechanical properties at mesoscale were measured by tensile testing, and elastic modulus and hardness at sub-microscale were obtained using nanoindentation. The experimental results showed age-related changes in the structure and chemical composition of cortical bone. Lamellar bone was a prevalent structure in 6 months and 12 months old animals, resorption sites were most pronounced in 6 months old animals, while secondary osteons were the dominant features in 42 months old animals. Mineral content and mineral-to-organic ratio increased with age. The structural and chemical changes with age corresponded to an increase in local elastic modulus, and overall elastic modulus and ultimate tensile strength as bone matured.
Keywords: Cortical bone; Bone structure; Chemical composition; Mechanical properties; Age effects