The microstructure and associated mechanical properties of antler trabecular bone have been studied using a variety of techniques. The local trabeculae properties, as well as the three-dimensional architecture were characterized using nanoindentation and X-ray microtomography, respectively. An elastic modulus of 10.9+/-1.1 GPa is reported for dry bone, compared with 5.4+/-0.9 GPa for fully hydrated bone. Trabeculae thickness and separation were found to be comparable to those of bovine trabecular bone. Uniaxial compression conducted in situ during X-ray microtomography showed that antler can undergo significant architectural rearrangement, dominated by trabeculae bending and buckling, due to its low mineral content. High-energy synchrotron X-ray diffraction was used to measure elastic strains in the apatite crystals of the trabeculae, also under in situ uniaxial compression. During elastic loading, strain was found to be accommodated largely by trabeculae aligned parallel to the loading direction. Prior to the macroscopic yield point, internal strains increased as trabeculae deformed by bending, and load was also found to be redistributed to trabeculae aligned non-parallel to the loading direction. Significant bending of trabecular walls resulted in tensile strains developing in trabeculae aligned along the loading direction.
Keywords: Antler; Trabecular bone; Synchrotron X-ray diffraction; Apatite strains; Compression