We study apparent elastic moduli of trabecular bone, which is represented, for simplicity, by a two- or three-dimensional periodic cellular network. The term "apparent" refers to the case when the region used in calculations (or specimen size) is smaller than a representative volume element and the moduli depend on the size of that region and boundary conditions. Both the bone tissue forming the network and the pores (represented by a very soft material) are assumed, for simplicity, as homogeneous, linear elastic, and isotropic. In order to investigate the effects of scale and boundary conditions on the moduli of these networks we vary the specimen size and apply four different boundary conditions: displacement, traction, mixed, and periodic. The analysis using periodic boundary conditions gives the effective moduli, while the displacement, traction, and mixed boundary conditions give apparent moduli. The apparent moduli calculated using displacement and traction boundary conditions bound the effective moduli from above and below, respectively. The larger is the size of the region used in our calculations, the closer are the bounds. Our choice of mixed boundary conditions gives results that are very close to those obtained using periodic boundary conditions. We conduct this analysis computationally using a finite element method. We also investigate the effect of mismatch in elastic moduli of bone tissue and soft fill, trabecular bone structure geometry, and bone tissue volume fraction on the apparent elastic moduli of idealized periodic models of trabecular bone. This study gives guidance on how the size of the specimen and boundary conditions (used in experiments or simulations) influence elastic moduli of cellular materials. This approach is applicable to heterogeneous materials in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121008-1
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Apparent elastic moduli
  • Periodic microstructure
  • Representative volume element
  • Scale and boundary conditions effects
  • Trabecular bone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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