Alderete, N.; Zaheri, A.; Espinosa, H. D.
Experimental Mechanics 59 (2019)
A number of experimental techniques have been used to characterize the mechanical properties and wear of biomaterials, from nanoindentation to scratch to atomic force microscopy testing. While all these experiments provide valuable information on the mechanics and functionality of biomaterials (e.g., animals’ teeth), they lack the ability to combine the measurement of force and sliding velocities with high resolution imaging of the processes taking place at the biomaterial-substrate interface. Here we present an experiment for the in situ scanning electron microscopy characterization of the mechanics of friction and wear of biomaterials with simultaneous control of mechanical and kinematic variables. To illustrate the experimental methodology, we report the wear of the sea urchin tooth, which exhibits a unique combination of architecture and material properties tailored to withstand abrasion loads in different directions. By quantifying contact conditions and changes in the tooth tip geometry, we show that the developed methodology provides a versatile and promising tool to investigate wear mechanisms in a variety of animal teeth accounting for microscale effects.