Designing functionally graded materials with superior load-bearing properties

Yu Zhang, Ming Jie Sun, Denzil Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ceramic prostheses often fail from fracture and wear. We hypothesize that these failures may be substantially mitigated by an appropriate grading of elastic modulus at the ceramic surface. In this study, we elucidate the effect of elastic modulus profile on the flexural damage resistance of functionally graded materials (FGMs), providing theoretical guidelines for designing FGMs with superior load-bearing property. The Young's modulus of the graded structure is assumed to vary in a power-law relation with a scaling exponent n; this is in accordance with experimental observations from our laboratory and elsewhere. Based on the theory for bending of graded beams, we examine the effect of n value and bulk-to-surface modulus ratio (Eb/Es) on stress distribution through the graded layer. Theory predicts that a low exponent (0.15 < n < 0.5), coupled with a relatively small modulus ratio (3 < E b/Es < 6), is most desirable for reducing the maximum stress and transferring it into the interior, while keeping the surface stress low. Experimentally, we demonstrate that elastically graded materials with various n values and Eb/Es ratios can be fabricated by infiltrating alumina and zirconia with a low-modulus glass. Flexural tests show that graded alumina and zirconia with suitable values of these parameters exhibit superior load-bearing capacity, 20-50% higher than their homogeneous counterparts. Improving load-bearing capacity of ceramic materials could have broad impacts on biomedical, civil, structural, and an array of other engineering applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1101-1108
Number of pages8
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Biomechanical prostheses
  • Functionally graded ceramics
  • Load-bearing capacity
  • Modulus gradients
  • Stress dissipation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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