Hui Zhu, Dagang Guo, Lijuan Sun, Hongyuan Li, Dorian A.H. Hanaor, Franziska Schmidt, Kewei Xu
In this study, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) was employed to characterize the nanostructure of strontium-substituted hydroxyapatite (Sr-HA) and its evolution following in vitro immersion in physiological solutions. HRTEM images showed that the substitution of Sr induced local distortions in the hydroxyapatite (HA) lattice: minor levels of edge dislocations were detected at low doping contents of Sr ions (1 at %); when the Sr content exceeded 10 at%, the density of grain boundaries increased notably and triple junctions were clearly observed. The dissolution of undoped HA was initiated at crystallite surfaces, whereas the dissolution of Sr-HA started around grain boundaries. Acicular nanocrystal reprecipitation was observed on grain surfaces immersed in simulated body fluid (SBF), while not in dilute hydrochloric acid (HCl). These findings suggest appropriate levels of Sr incorporation can introduce imperfections in the crystal structure of apatite and thus enhance its dissolution rate towards enhanced physicochemical performance in biomedical applications.