Surface Coating of Oxide Powders: A New Synthesis Method to Process Biomedical Grade Nano-Composites
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Composite and nanocomposite ceramics have achieved special interest in recent years when used for biomedical applications. They have demonstrated, in some cases, increased performance, reliability, and stability in vivo, with respect to pure monolithic ceramics. Current research aims at developing new compositions and architectures to further increase their properties. However, the ability to tailor the microstructure requires the careful control of all steps of manufacturing, from the synthesis of composite nanopowders, to their processing and sintering. This review aims at deepening understanding of the critical issues associated with the manufacturing of nanocomposite ceramics, focusing on the key role of the synthesis methods to develop homogeneous and tailored microstructures. In this frame, the authors have developed an innovative method, named “surface-coating process”, in which matrix oxide powders are coated with inorganic precursors of the second phase. The method is illustrated into two case studies; the former, on Zirconia Toughened Alumina (ZTA) materials for orthopedic applications, and the latter, on Zirconia-based composites for dental implants, discussing the advances and the potential of the method, which can become a valuable alternative to the current synthesis process already used at a clinical and industrial scale.