The reduction half cell in biomaterials corrosion: Oxygen diffusion profiles near and cell response to polarized titanium surfaces

Jeremy L. Gilbert, Lena Zarka, Elbert Chang, Carson H. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Mechanically assisted corrosion processes can greatly increase the oxidation currents generated in passivating alloy systems like Co-Cr and titanium due to oxide film disruption. When oxide films are abraded, repassivation and ionic dissolution both occur at rates that are orders of magnitude higher than undisrupted surfaces. The excess electrons generated by these anodic processes must be consumed in corresponding reduction reactions that include the reduction of oxygen. If large enough, these reduction reactions may locally deplete the concentration of solution-dissolved oxygen and, in turn, affect cell behavior in the vicinity of the implant surface. To date, this hypothesis has not been tested. In the present study, a scanning electrochemical microscope was used to measure oxygen concentration profiles in vitro near a planar titanium electrode polarized to different voltages representative of those attainable by titanium undergoing mechanically assisted corrosion. The potentials investigated ranged from 0 mV to -1000 mV (AgCl). The oxygen concentration as a function of distance from the titanium surface was measured using a platinum-iridium microelectrode and an amperometric technique. Also, preliminary experiments were performed to assess the response of rat calvarial osteoblast-rich cells cultured for 2 h on titanium samples polarized to two different potentials (0 mV and -1000 mV versus AgCl). The results of this study indicate that oxygen concentrations near titanium surfaces are affected by sample potentials out to probe-sample distances as great as 500 μm. Within 2 μm of the surface, oxygen concentrations decreased by 15 to 25% for sample potentials between -100 and -500 mV. At potentials more negative than -600 mV, the oxygen concentration dropped rapidly to near zero by -900 mV. The cell experiments showed a statistically significant difference in the amount of cell spreading, as measured by projected cell area, between the two groups (p < 0.03), with the cells cultured at -1000 mV undergoing much less spreading. This implies that -1000 mV inhibits normal cell behavior at the titanium surface and that this is most likely due, at least in part, to a diminished oxygen supply.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-330
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1998


  • Corrosion
  • Osteoblast
  • Oxygen
  • Titanium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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