Microscopic assessment of bone toughness using scratch tests

Amrita Kataruka, Kavya Mendu, Orieka Okeoghene, Jasmine Puthuvelil, Ange Therese Akono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bone is a composite material with five distinct structural levels: collagen molecules, mineralized collagen fibrils, lamellae, osteon and whole bone. However, most fracture testing methods have been limited to the macroscopic scale and there is a need for advanced characterization methods to assess toughness at the osteon level and below. The goal of this investigation is to present a novel framework to measure the fracture properties of bone at the microscopic scale using scratch testing. A rigorous experimental protocol is articulated and applied to examine cortical bone specimens from porcine femurs. The observed fracture behavior is very complex: we observe a strong anisotropy of the response with toughening mechanisms and a competition between plastic flow and brittle fracture. The challenge consists then in applying nonlinear fracture mechanics methods such as the J-integral or the energetic Size Effect Law to quantify the fracture toughness in a rigorous fashion. Our result suggests that mixed-mode fracture is instrumental in determining the fracture resistance. There is also a pronounced coupling between fracture and elasticity. Our methodology opens the door to fracture assessment at multiple structural levels, microscopic and potentially nanometer length scale, due to the scalability of scratch tests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalBone Reports
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Cortical bone
  • Fracture modes
  • Fracture toughness
  • Multi-scale testing
  • Scratch test
  • Size effect law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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