ZEISS Microscopy

Characterize Biomaterials & Bio-Inspired Materials in 3D & 4D

Three studies illustrate how microscopy advances biomaterials science and engineering

Characterize Biomaterials & Bio-Inspired Materials in 3D & 4D

Three studies illustrate how microscopy advances biomaterials science and engineering

4D Investigation of Microdamage Initiation & Progression in Cartilage-Bone Interfaces

With X-ray Tomography

4D Investigation of Microdamage Initiation & Progression in Cartilage-Bone Interfaces

With X-ray Tomography

Microscopic Characterization of Polymer Fibers with Dragline Spider Silk Properties

With X-ray Microscopy and FE-SEM

Characterization of Polymer Fibers with Dragline Spider Silk Properties

With X-ray Microscopy and FE-SEM

Characterize the 3D Microstructure of Nanofibrous Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering

With X-ray Microscopy

Characterize the 3D Microstructure of Nanofibrous Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering

With X-ray Microscopy

Discover three studies that illustrate how microscopy techniques support analysis of biomaterials and bio-inspired materials: From studying cartilage-bone interfaces in 4D, to the investigation of polymer fibers with spider-silk-like properties to the 3D characterization of nanofibrous scaffolds for tissue engineering. Scroll down and explore the use cases.

4D Investigation of Microdamage Initiation & Progression in Cartilage-Bone Interfaces

With X-ray Tomography

In order to understanding failure mechanisms in biological tissues, X-ray Computed Tomography (XCT) enables researchers to track microdamage initiation and progression. In this study, Gianluca Tozzi from the school of Mechanical and Design Engineering at the University of Portsmouth investigates the mechanical performance & interplay of a cartilage-bone interface. The goal: Contribute to the understanding of the etiology and pathogenesis of osteoarthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide.

The Use Case: Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most prevalent and disabling degenerative diseases affecting millions of people worldwide. Despite years of research, understanding the etiology and pathogenesis of OA remains unclear. It has been speculated that the OA process may be triggered by altered strain transfer in the osteochondral unit. To investigate this further, a deep understanding of the cartilage-bone mechanics is of vital importance, especially their interface.

The Challenge: Investigation of the cartilage-bone interface with X-ray computed tomography (XCT) is challenging due to the different absorption of those two tissues. As an alternative to the well-established imaging with absorption contrast, propagation-based phase-contrast X-ray imaging has emerged as a technology capable of resolving unstained soft tissues and biomaterials.

The Solution: In the white paper, ZEISS Xradia Versa enabled high-resolution X-ray Computed Tomography (XCT), in situ mechanical testing and digital volume correlation (DVC), providing a comprehensive toolset for analysis of the mechanical performance of biological tissues and biomaterials.

The Use Case: Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most prevalent and disabling degenerative diseases affecting millions of people worldwide. Despite years of research, understanding the etiology and pathogenesis of OA remains unclear. It has been speculated that the OA process may be triggered by altered strain transfer in the osteochondral unit. To investigate this further, a deep understanding of the cartilage-bone mechanics is of vital importance, especially their interface.

The Challenge: Investigation of the cartilage-bone interface with X-ray computed tomography (XCT) is challenging due to the different absorption of those two tissues. As an alternative to the well-established imaging with absorption contrast, propagation-based phase-contrast X-ray imaging has emerged as a technology capable of resolving unstained soft tissues and biomaterials.

The Solution: In the white paper, ZEISS Xradia Versa enabled high-resolution X-ray Computed Tomography (XCT), in situ mechanical testing and digital volume correlation (DVC), providing a comprehensive toolset for analysis of the mechanical performance of biological tissues and biomaterials.

Full-field residual strain distribution computed after mechanical testing. Equivalent von Mises Strain (εeq) distribution for a) a cross-section of the sample, b) the entire volume, c) the articular cartilage and d) mineralized tissue computed using DVC. Figure courtesy of: Tozzi et al.. Materials 2020;13(11).
Full-field residual strain distribution computed after mechanical testing. Equivalent von Mises Strain (εeq) distribution for a) a cross-section of the sample, b) the entire volume, c) the articular cartilage and d) mineralized tissue computed using DVC. Figure courtesy of: Tozzi et al.. Materials 2020;13(11).

Characterization of Polymer Fibers with Dragline Spider Silk Properties

With X-ray Tomography and FE-SEM

Scientists are trying to find a way to produce synthetic materials with a strength and toughness comparable to that of spider silk. To support the design of such a novel polymer fiber, researchers at the University of Halle-Wittenberg and the University of Bayreuth conducted microscopic characterization of a novel polymer fiber using SEM and XRM. The goal: Reaching a better understanding of the link between microstructure, process and property.

The Use Case: Dragline spider silk is known for its unique combination of strength and toughness. But this combination has been hard to replicate in synthetic fibers. To push the limits, scientists are trying to find a way to produce synthetic materials with a strength and toughness comparable to that of spider silk by designing an innovative microstructure of synthetic fibers. For this purpose, microscopic characterization using SEM and XRM helps to understand the link of microstructure, process and property.

The Challenge: To create similar strong and tough fibers from polymers, it is essential to reach the nearly perfect uniaxial orientation of the fibrils by heat stretching, annealing under tension in the presence of linking molecules.

The Solution: Both a ZEISS FE-SEM and an X-ray microscope, ZEISS Xradia Ultra, were successfully applied to characterize the morphology and to understand the effects of the annealing and stretching process in order to optimize the overall properties of polymer fibers.

The Use Case: Dragline spider silk is known for its unique combination of strength and toughness. But this combination has been hard to replicate in synthetic fibers. To push the limits, scientists are trying to find a way to produce synthetic materials with a strength and toughness comparable to that of spider silk by designing an innovative microstructure of synthetic fibers. For this purpose, microscopic characterization using SEM and XRM helps to understand the link of microstructure, process and property.

The Challenge: To create similar strong and tough fibers from polymers, it is essential to reach the nearly perfect uniaxial orientation of the fibrils by heat stretching, annealing under tension in the presence of linking molecules.

The Solution: Both a ZEISS FE-SEM and an X-ray microscope, ZEISS Xradia Ultra, were successfully applied to characterize the morphology and to understand the effects of the annealing and stretching process in order to optimize the overall properties of polymer fibers.

(A) SEM image of the long axis of stretched (at the stretch ratio of 8 and 160°C) and annealed (130°C for 4 hours) yarns. (B) SEM image of a cross-section of the stretched (at the stretch ratio of 8 and 160°C) and annealed (130°C for 4 hours) yarns.
(A) SEM image of the long axis of stretched (at the stretch ratio of 8 and 160°C) and annealed (130°C for 4 hours) yarns. (B) SEM image of a cross-section of the stretched (at the stretch ratio of 8 and 160°C) and annealed (130°C for 4 hours) yarns.

3D Microstructure Analysis of Nanofibrous Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering

With X-ray Microscopy

In this study, researchers from the Divison for Microstructure based Materials Design (mikroMD) at University of Halle-Wittenberg and Fraunhofer IMWS investigated gelatin nanofibers, using X-ray microsopy to analyze their porosity, pore size & morphology. The goal: Gain beneficial insights for the design and fabrication of novel fibrous materials for tissue engineering.

The Use Case: Regeneration of damaged tissue via nanofibrous scaffolds requires designing an extracellular matrix-like scaffold with high surface area to volume ratio as well as high porosity for promoting homogeneous cell attachment and proliferation throughout the scaffold. Characterizing these sample features is indispensable for the design and fabrication of tailored scaffold materials.

The Challenge: 3D characterization of the porous structure of the cross-linked gelatin scaffolds using X-ray microscopy is a challenge, because the gelatin nanofibers are composed of elements with low atomic number that deliver very low X-ray absorption-contrast.

The Solution: In the white paper, ZEISS Xradia 810 Ultra was successfully applied to characterize the morphology of electrospun gelatin fibers for understanding the effect of fiber cross-linking in the gelatin mat morphology. 

The Use Case: Regeneration of damaged tissue via nanofibrous scaffolds requires designing an extracellular matrix-like scaffold with high surface area to volume ratio as well as high porosity for promoting homogeneous cell attachment and proliferation throughout the scaffold. Characterizing these sample features is indispensable for the design and fabrication of tailored scaffold materials.

The Challenge: 3D characterization of the porous structure of the cross-linked gelatin scaffolds using X-ray microscopy is a challenge, because the gelatin nanofibers are composed of elements with low atomic number that deliver very low X-ray absorption-contrast.

The Solution: In the white paper, ZEISS Xradia 810 Ultra was successfully applied to characterize the morphology of electrospun gelatin fibers for understanding the effect of fiber cross-linking in the gelatin mat morphology. 

Video courtesy: Dr. Cristine Santos de Oliveira, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Download White Papers

Microscopy Solutions for Biomaterials Science & Engineering

About the white paper authors & their institutions

Driving forward biomaterials science & engineering

Juliana Martins de Souza e Silva, Cristine Santos de Oliveira, Ralf B. Wehrspohn | Divison for Microstructure based Materials Design – mikroMD, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany

The division has its core competencies in the development of application-specific 2D and 3D micro- and nanostructured materials. It uses simulation methods to predict the properties and microstructuring processes and develops adapted mechanical, optical and electro-optical characterization methods.

Tobias Hedtke, Christian E. H. Schmelzer | Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS

Thanks to its interdisciplinary expertise in materials and life sciences, Fraunhofer IMWS is in a position to provide industrial customers with scientific and technical advice on issues in the fields of medicine, care, and the environment. The focus here lies on materials research for dental and personal care products, the development and characterization of biomaterials for medical devices and the biofunctionalization of surfaces.

Xiaojian Liao, Seema Agarwal, Andreas Greiner | Macromolecular Chemistry and Bavarian Polymer Institute, University of Bayreuth, Germany

The department for Macromolecular Chemistry  has research expertise in the synthesis, characterization, and practical application of polymers and low-molecular functional and structural materials. Close cooperation is maintained with the departments of Physical Chemistry and Experimental Physics at the University of Bayreuth as well as with foreign universities and industry.

Gianluca Tozzi | Zeiss Global Centre, School of Mechanical and Design Engineering, University of Portsmouth, UK

The school is driven to make the world a better place through smarter thinking and design. One area of expertise is biomedical engineering, where the school is working at the interface of engineering, life sciences and biomedical sciences to deliver research with socioeconomic impact – including health technology and bio-inspired materials.