Art in the F ² Lab
In engineering, art is often overlooked. Bone is a marvelous natural material that has been engineered over millions of years. Bioinspired designs and biology itself can serve as a reminder that even in, and especially in, engineering, art has a place.
Bone to Climb
I moved to Salt Lake from Newport, North Carolina, a small town by the beach, fresh off an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering. That said, moving to a bigger, landlocked city in the mountains to study bone was a pretty significant departure from what I was used to. I found that the transition was not so bad though, since there were tons of new hobbies, such as climbing, to try that I would have never had the chance to do in NC. This simple piece is just a combination of the change in research and hobbies I got into as a result of moving to SLC.
The bone here is a cross section of a synchrotron radiation micro-CT scan in the rough shape of a carabiner used for climbing. Synchrotron radiation micro-CT is a very small-scale version of CT (like a CT scan you would get at a hospital) that we use in our lab to study bone at the microscale. The small black dots within the bone are lacunae, which house tiny bone cells called osteocytes. The larger black holes are canals, which house blood vessels that run through the bone and transport nutrients. You can see some variation in the shades of white and grey of the bone. The brighter bone is in these micro-CT scans, the more mineral they possess, so you can see the subtle variations in mineral at different points. Bone is a dynamic material that changes in response to the loading it feels, so I wonder how climbing can affect bone structure. Maybe my move to SLC has changed me in a physical sense too, down to the bone.
Some of the most important crack resistance qualities of cortical bone occur at the micrometer length-scale. We are characterizing them using Synchrotron radiation micro-computed tomography (SRuT). This technique provides 3D structural information at micron level such as size of osteon’s Haversian canal and osteocyte lacunae. Following mechanical testing, a 3D image of crack growth from a notch can also be visualize. Using this technique, we investigate how biological changes caused by age, disease, treatment, etc. affect the microstructural features and their interaction with the crack growth, and in turn, how these factors alter the fracture resistance.