Our third year Physics student Hannah Thurlbeck is currently working on the surface characteristics and composition of dental implants with reference to their effectiveness and success rate. Following on from a summer UROS project in which she characterised existing commercial implants with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX), she will be depositing nanostructured materials onto similar surfaces for comparison.

Hannah has found that the surface roughness is consistent across all three commercial implants analysed. However, the types of surface anomalies found were not uniform. In two of the implants organic surface defects were identified by the resulting charge build up under the SEM as show in the first image, below. In the third implant tested such surface defects were not found, although there were still defects present as seen in the second image


InorganicIt was confirmed by EDX that the dental implant was made of titanium as detailed by the manufacturer. However, by studying the surface anomalies found using the SEM further conclusions could be made about them. The EDX spectra of the organic surface anomalies contained carbon, calcium and oxygen suggesting that they were dust particles. The EDX spectrum of the inorganic defect showed that the impurity contained chlorine, potentially a product of the manufacturing process.



Hannah’s comments on her summer UROS project:

“Throughout this project I have developed various skills as well as knowledge of subject areas outside of physics. I had previous experience with SEM but through the UROS project I have gained the opportunity to use the SEM with my own aims and now further understand its analytical capabilities. This has advanced my research skills as I was able to tailor the experience towards areas I am interested in.

Additionally, this project led me into the area of life sciences and so has shown me how I can apply my current skills and take part in multidisciplinary projects. I believe this will be a key skill in future research and employment.

During this project, I have been lucky to work with two supervisors who are enthusiastic about the subject and available to support me in advancing my research skills and report writing. They also allowed me to make decisions about what I wanted to look further into and so prepared me for future research opportunities. Through their guidance I am now also more comfortable working independently and coming to my own decisions about where to guide the project. Overall, UROS has been invaluable in developing new and existing skills and preparing for future research opportunities.”