Nano-structure TiO2 film coating on 316L stainless steel via sol-gel technique for blood compatibility improvement
Objective(s): Titanium oxides are known to be appropriate hemocompatible materials which are suggested as coatings for blood-contacting devices. Little is known about the influence of nanometric crystal structure, layer thickness, and semiconducting characteristics of TiO2 on blood hemostasis. Materials and Methods: Having used sol-gel dip coating method in this study, TiO2 thin films were deposited on nano-scale electro-polished stainless steel 316L with 1 to 5 nano-sized layers. Surface morphology and structure of the film were studied with X-ray diffraction and atomic force microscopy. Blood compatibility was also determined by measuring the platelet activation (CD62P expression), platelet adhesion (Scanning Electron Microscopy), and the blood clotting time on these samples. Results: The films were compact and smooth and existed mainly in the form of anatase. By increasing the number of TiO2 thin layer, clotting time greatly extended, and the population of activated platelet and P-selectine expression changed according to the surface characteristics of each layer. Conclusion: The findings revealed that stainless steel 316L coated with nano-structured TiO2 layer improved blood compatibility, in terms of both blood platelet activity and coagulation cascade, which can decrease the thrombogenicity of blood contacting devices which were made from stainless steel.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Nano-structure TiO2 film coating on 316L stainless steel via sol-gel technique for blood compatibility improvement
128 Nanomed J, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 2014
Received: Jun. 19, 2013; Accepted: Sep. 12, 2013
Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 2014, page 128-136
Online ISSN 2322-5904
Nano-structure TiO2 film coating on 316L stainless steel via sol-gel
technique for blood compatibility improvement
, Seid Mohammad Hosainalipour1
, Shamsoddin Mirdamadi
, Mahnaz Aghaeipour2
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Iran University of Science and Technology, Narmak,
Iranian Blood Transfusion Research Centre, Tehran, Iran
Objective(s): Titanium oxides are known to be appropriate hemocompatible materials which
are suggested as coatings for blood-contacting devices. Little is known about the influence of
nanometric crystal structure, layer thickness, and semiconducting characteristics of TiO2 on
Materials and Methods: Having used sol-gel dip coating method in this study, TiO2 thin
films were deposited on nano-scale electro-polished stainless steel 316L with 1 to 5 nano-
sized layers. Surface morphology and structure of the film were studied with X-ray
diffraction and atomic force microscopy. Blood compatibility was also determined by
measuring the platelet activation (CD62P expression), platelet adhesion (Scanning Electron
Microscopy), and the blood clotting time on these samples.
Results: The films were compact and smooth and existed mainly in the form of anatase. By
increasing the number of TiO2 thin layer, clotting time greatly extended, and the population
of activated platelet and P-selectine expression changed according to the surface
characteristics of each layer.
Conclusion: The findings revealed that stainless steel 316L coated with nano-structured TiO2
layer improved blood compatibility, in terms of both blood platelet activity and coagulation
cascade, which can decrease the thrombogenicity of blood contacting devices which were
made from stainless steel.
Keywords: Blood compatibzlity, Flowcytometry, Nano-structured, Sol-gel, Titanium oxide
Corresponding author: Mohammadreza Foruzanmehr, Department of Materials Science and Engineering,
Iran University of Science and Technology, Narmak, Tehran16765-163, Iran.
Tel. : +98-21-88778288, Email: email@example.com
TiO2 film coating on 316L stainless steel for blood compatibility
Nanomed J, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 2014 129
For medical implants, such as heart valves
or vascular stents, which are in contact
with blood, it is important to minimize the
propensity of the surface in order to adsorb
blood proteins, provoke blood clotting, and
hence, reduce the risk of thrombosis (1).
Titanium alloys are usually used for
fabrication of synthetic heart valves. They
possess blood compatibility and high
resistance to degradation, wear, and
fatigue; however, there are also some
serious problems associated with these
materials (2). Stainless steels are
distinctively qualified not only because of
their long service life, availability, and
fabric ability, but also because they are
non-corroding and non-contaminant,
strong and rigid, appropriate to be polished
to very smooth finishes. Stainless steels
can withstand heat and chemical
sterilization and are easily welded. The
base materials of the stents are
biocompatible and haemocompatible
alloys. The most widely used materials are
AISI 316L and 316LVM types of stainless
steel, which are proved to be the most
reliable in clinical applications (3).Early
observational trials highlighted problems
associated with the use of stents, in
particular, a high incidence of subacute
occlusion, despite aggressive
anticoagulation regimens that prolonged
hospital stay and were difficult to control,
and occasionally led to severe events (4).
In-stent restenosis results from a series of
complex interactions involving the
presence of a thrombogenic surface and
the activation of platelets and coagulation
proteins. Clinical studies have shown a
significant reduction in acute occlusion
and restenosis after antiplatelet therapy
and have provided evidence that platelet
activation may play an important role in
in-stent restenosis (5). Therefore, the
thrombogenicity of stents may be an
important factor in prevention of in-stent
restenosis. Surface modification has
appeared to be a main method to improve
anticoagulation of biomaterials contact
with blood (6). Various biologically inert
surface coatings, such as carbon, platinum,
phosphorylcholine, and gold, have been
applied to stainless steel stents to reduce
thrombosis and restenosis; nonetheless, the
effectiveness of these strategies has not
been proven in clinical trials. In fact, gold
coatings have resulted in increased rates of
restenosis (7). For example, Baurschmidt
and Coworkers studied the blood
compatibility of SiC to use this material as
artificial heart valves (8). A tilting flat
disk-type ceramic valve has been
developed by Mitamura et al (9). The
valve comprises a single-crystal alumina
ceramic disk and TiN valve cage. The
blood compatibility of diamond-like
carbon (DLC) was also studied by Dion
and colleagues (10). In 1980s, Schaldach
and coworkers researched the blood
compatibility of Ta5+
TiO2 Ceramics (11). Of all these materials,
only TiO2 ceramics showed good
hemocompatibility in comparison to LTI-
carbon. In spite of the enhanced
hemocompatibility of this doped
semiconducting rutile ceramic compared to
LTI-carbon, technological problems
associated with the surface roughness of
this material make the manufacturing costs
prohibitive (10). Huang and associates
observed that whenever the thickness of
the titanium oxide layers increased, the
blood compatibility of these layers
noticeably improved (11). Materials in
contact with blood have frequently shown
different behaviour concerning the
activation of blood platelets or the clothing
cascade. Tsyganov and colleagues found
that low-dose phosphorous ion
implantation into rutile TiO2 could reduce
the activation of both hemostatic systems.
Surface roughness below 50 nm or crystal
structure had only minor effects on blood
compatibility (8). TiO2 film can be
prepared by methods such as ion beam-
assisted deposition, CVD, plasma
immersion, etc. However, these methods
are complex and expensive for depositing
a uniform layer of TiO2 film on the
Foruzanmehr M, et al
130 Nanomed J, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 2014
substrate with complex shapes or
geometry. Sol-gel technology is a low-
temperature method which is independent
of substrate shape and can achieve a good
control of surface properties such as
composition, thickness, and topography
(12). In this paper, the blood compatibility
of stainless steel stents coated by bare and
one-to-five nano-structured TiO2 layers
was investigated. Furthermore, some
correlation between platelet and
coagulation cascade activation was
Materials and Methods
Titanium tetra-iso-peropoxide (TTIP) was
used as a starting material (Aldrich
99.99%), and nitric acid (Merck), as a
peptizer. The water used in preparing TiO2
sols was doubly distilled and deionized.
The TiO2 sol was synthesized as follows: a
mixture of 30 mL (0.12 mol) of TTIP and
5 mL of ethanol (Merck) was added to 180
mL of water in a 500-mL jacketed
Erlenmeyer flask to provide a TTIP-
ethanol-water molar ratio of 1:0.75:83.
Then, 2 mL of nitric acid was added to the
TTIP solution and maintained at 20C by
circulating a coolant with a circulating
chiller. The resulting sol was refluxed at
80C for 12 hours under vigorous stirring
(using a magnetic stirrer), which resulted
in a milky solution. Therafter, it aged for
48 hours at room temperature in the air.
AISI 316L stainless steel plates with
dimensions of 20 × 20 × 3 mm were used
as substrates. Before coating,the samples
were ground with successive SiC papers
down to grit size 1500 and polished with a
5-µm diamond paste. In order to achieve
better blood compatibility and resembling
to stent manufacturing process, all of the
samples were electropolished by
electrolytes composed of deionized water,
chromic acid, phosphoric acid, and sulfuric
acid (conditions shown in Table 1). The
samples were afterwards ultrasonically
cleaned with aceton. The coatings were
conducted by dip-coat method. The
substrates were immersed into the sol and
then withdrawn at a speed of 8 cm/min
following each coating in order to avoid
cracking. The samples were dried in an
oven at a temperature of 100C. The
samples were coated by 1 to 5 layers and
the obtained films were annealed at 500C
in nitrogen-purged furnace for 1 hour. The
temperature was raised slowly, at a rate of
approximately 1C/min, from room
temperature to 500C.
Table 1. Electro polish conditions.
Current density (A.cm-2
Temperature (C) 26-49
Time (S) 60
Phase composition was determined by
XRD measurements using (SIESERT
3003TT) difractometer with settings of 40-
kV and 30-mA Cu Kα radiation (λ =
0.1540510 nm) and range of 2θ between
10 to 120, on the powder obtained from
dried sol which also was annealed as
mentioned for the normal samples. To
measure the single-layer thickness, first a
stainless steel substrate was primed to
reach a flat and smooth surface as
explained before. Then, the sample was
dipped up to the middle line and
subsequently pulled out of the sol. It was
processed afterwards as it was in normal
samples. A contact mode AFM (DME
Scanner95200E Dual Scope 30-26) was
used to investigate boundary of bare and
coated metal. Ten fields (10 ×10 µm) were
chosen and average Ry introduced as the
film thickness. Non-contact mode AFM
(DME Scanner 95200E Dual Scope 30-26)
was employed to reveal topographic
characterization and roughness
specification of 1 to 5 layers TiO2 thin
films coated on stainless steel.
Blood compatibility assessment
Stainless steel 316L is clinically proved
biocompatible to use in blood contacting
devices such as coronary stents and heart
valves and it was employed as a proper
TiO2 film coating on 316L stainless steel for blood compatibility
Nanomed J, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 2014 131
control for the coming biological
experiments (3). Glass is also used a
For blood compatibility tests, all samples
were ultrasonically cleaned subsequently
in ethanol and water, each for 10 minutes.
The thrombogenicity of the samples was
evaluated using a whole blood kinetic
clotting time method, as previously
described (13, 14). Additional samples
with adherent platelets were prepared for
scanning electron microscopy as described
by Grunkemeir and colleagues (15) and
observed with a Cambridge sterioscope
320 Scanning electron microscopy. The
expression of the platelet activation marker
CD62P was measured by flow cytometry.
Blood (4.5 mL) was obtained by
venipuncture from a healthy male blood
donor who had denied the use of any
drugs, especially aspirin. The blood was
anticoagulated with 0.5 mL of sodium
citrate (110 mM) in a sterile system
(Vacutainer, Becton Dickinson). Fifty
milliliter of anticoagulated blood was
immediately mixed with 450 mL of fixing
buffer (phosphate-buffered saline (PBS)
with 2% paraformaldehyde and 0.1%
sodium azide) at 4C.Platelet-rich plasma
PRP (6.68-6.86 × 104
obtained from the rest of the blood by
spinning down at 200 g, 20C, for 20
minutes. Fifty milliliter of PRP was mixed
with 450 mL of fixing buffer at 4C to
obtain platelets in the resting state. PRP
(450 mL) was incubated with 50 mL of
adenosine diphosphate (0.2 mM) for 5 or
10 minutes at room temperature; then, 50
mL of these maximally activated platelets
were fixed in 450 mL of fixing buffer.
Before staining, platelets were kept in the
fixing buffer for 2 hours at 4C. They were
washed once with PBS, 0.1% sodium
azide, centrifuged at 1200 × g,
resuspended with staining buffer (PBS,
0.1% sodium azide, 2% fetal Calf serum)
and stained with
mouse CD41a (Serotec, Clone Pm6248)
or with phycoerythrine-labeled anti-human
CD62P (Serotec, Clone Psel.KO.2.12) for
30 minutes. The platelets were washed
once again and then measured by flow
cytometry (PASIII, PARTEC).
Only single-labeled platelets were used to
avoid problems with compensation.
Platelets were gated in the forward scatter-
side scatter plot. Five thousand events in
this gate were recorded. The correct
position of this gate was confirmed by the
CD41a-labeled platelets and non-specific
bonding border line determined by Iso type
negative antibody IGg1 for each blood
donation. Median values of the CD62P
histogram were used for evaluation.
The median CD62P signal of unstained
platelets was set as 0% activation and that
of the adenosine diphosphate-activated
platelets were set as 100% activation.One
hundred milliliters of PRP were dispersed
on each sample on a circle with
approximately 10-mm diameter. The
platelets were allowed to adhere on the
surface for 45 minutes at 37C in
humidified air with 5% CO2. Then, the
supernatant was aspirated and mixed with
900 mL of fixing buffer. The patch was
carefully rinsed twice with 100 mL of PBS
in order to remove less adherent platelets,
and the rinsing solution was fixed together
with the supernatant. The blood platelets
were stained and measured by flow
cytometry as described earlier.
The experiment was performed with 1
Results and Discussion
The composition of TiO2 films synthesized
on stainless steel due to interaction of Ni
and Cr peaks into background intensity
was determined through preparing TiO2
powder from sol and then measuring the
powder by X-Ray diffraction. Figure 1
shows the XRD pattern of TiO2 powder. It
reveals that the original film is completely
Anatase, and using Sherer’s equation, the
crystallite size was determined to be 12
nm. Figure 2 shows the existence of film
on stainless steel substrate.
Foruzanmehr M, et al
132 Nanomed J, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 2014
Figure 1. XRD pattern of titanium oxide films
synthesized by Sol-Gel.
Figure 2. AFM image shows different phase based
on voltage change crossing from stainless steel
316L to TiO2 coatings.
The single layer of TiO2 film that was
formed on 316L SS, measured to be 46
nm. Figure 3 shows nano-thickened layer
which can be assumed as nanometric film
(less than 100 nm); subsequently, 2, 3, 4,
and 5 layers are approximately 92 nm, 138
nm, 184 nm, 230 nm in thickness.
Previous investigations revealed that better
hemocompatibility is achieved in case of
thickness increase (16). However, others
state that the uniformity of oxide layer on
the surface of metallic implants was more
important than its thickness for improving
the biocompatibility of devices (17). All
of the mentioned theories can be attributed
to the multifaceted nature of blood
compatibility, which is discussed further in
Figure 3. AFM image shows the height elevation
which reveals the formation of TiO2 film in the
range of nano sized coating.
Surface topography and morphology
Figure 4 Shows the AFM images of 1 to 5-
layer TiO2 films coated on 316L SS, it can
be seen that the films are composed of
TiO2 particles which are tightly
agglomerated with each other.
Table 2 shows the mean surface roughness
(Ra) of each sample while the roughness
of electro-polished stainless steel was
below 20 nm, so that the measurement of
roughness may be little affected by the
It is mainly related to the TiO2 film coated
and seems that the roughness of the films
is strongly affected by coating sequences.
This means that for the first coating, the
preferred sites for deposition of TiO2
particles were determined by surface
tension and nano-scale inclination of the
stainless steel. However, in the second
coating, the substrate surface was covered
with TiO2 particles, and in the next
coating, gelation of TiO2 sol occurred in
the valley of the spiky film, so that the
height of peaks was reduced. This is why
the 2-layer coated sample has a smoother
surface in comparison to the 1-layer. This
procedure continues for the next coatings
and it can be assumed in the odd numbers
of coatings the roughness of the samples
slightly increased and in the even numbers
of coatings decreased.
TiO2 film coating on 316L stainless steel for blood compatibility
Nanomed J, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 2014 133
Figure 4. AFM images shows: Topographic and
morphologic characteristics of (A) one layer (B)
two layers, (C) three layers, (D) four layers, and (E)
five layers TiO2 nano sized coating.
Table 2. Mean surface roughness of samples.
Number of coating Ra (nm)
Whole blood clotting time
The blood compatibility of stainless
steelcoated with different number of TiO2
films was measured to obtain the clotting
time and platelet adhesion. Figure 5 shows
the blood profiles of tested materials.
The absorbance (at 540 nm) of the
hemolysed hemoglobin solution changes
with time (the curves were fit to the values
by exponential extrapolation).
The higher absorbance results, the better
thromboresistance. As a convention for
comparison clotting times, the time at
which the absorbance equals 0.1 is
generally defined as the clotting time (13).
Table 3 exhibits clotting times of the
samples. These results indicate that
increasing TiO2 film thickness extended
the clotting time; however, C.T increased
gradually from the sample with 2-layer
TiO2 film. In 5-layer TiO2 film, it reached
up to 63% more than that for bare metal.
It is suggested that the denaturing of
fibrinogen is related to the charges of
fibrinogen transferred to the material.
During this process, fibrinogen
decomposes and transforms into
fibrinmonomer and fibrinpeptides,
followed by crosslinking to form the
irreversible thrombus (11).
Figure 5. The effect of increasing number of TiO2
coating in comparison with bare metal 316L SS on
thrombus formation in whole blood at 5, 15, 20, 30
and 60 minutes. Blood is considered completely
clotted at an absorbance of 0.1.
Table 3. Clotting Time.
Samples Time (Sec)
I Layer 1440
II Layers 1680
III Layers 1710
IV Layers 1776
V Layers 1804
Platelet activation and adhesion
The trends of platelet adhesion are in
contrast to the results of the clotting time.
The different behavior of clotting time and
platelet adhesion demonstrate that these
two hemostatic processes are different;
based on their initiation.
The clotting cascade is activated mainly
due to intrinsic pathway which is triggered
via pre-kallikrein and factor XII activation,
while, thrombocytes are mainly activated
Foruzanmehr M, et al
134 Nanomed J, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 2014
on a surface by adsorbed protein like
fibrinogen and von willebrand factor.
Sunny and Sharma (16) found that with a
thicker titanium oxide layer on titanium,
the adsorption of albumin and fibrinogen
increased by 6-fold.
It can be inferred that by increasing film
thickness more protein is adsorbed on the
surface and consequently platelet adhesion
is promoted as a result of this pre-adsorbed
protein layer. Moreover, if surface
roughness exceeds, it can induce protein
This can be the reason that higher
roughness in 3-layer coated sample led to
more platelet adhesion.
Another important mechanism which can
affect platelet adhesion is surface charges
of TiO2 layer. The isoelectric point of
titania is pH 6.2 (21).
When samples are placed in vicinity with
blood (pH 7.4), TiO2 will be negatively
charged; therefore, thrombocytes with
negative charges will not adhere to the
To accept this theory, it should be
considered same trend of platelet adhesion
and activation for all of the coated
samples. Meanwhile, there are some
differences in work functions between
stainless steel and titanium oxide layer;
thus, many electrons would transfer from
stainless steel to the oxide layer (20). It
seems that by increasing the TiO2 film
thickness, the oxide layer would gradually
obtain the semiconductive property and it
can cause an enhancement of work
function difference between stainless steel
and TiO2 film. There would be an
optimum thickness of the oxide layer, for
surface negative charge density (11).
It can be speculated that there are various
cross-talks between these two mechanisms
which can act with each other
absorption effect. Figure 6 Compares bare
and 4-layer TiO2-coated stainless steel on
platelet adhesion; it showed the probability
of postulated theory that bare stainless
steel has less protein contamination, but,
there is more platelet adhesion.
On the contrary, coated sample had some
protein adsorption with less platelet
Figure 7 reveals the expression of the P-
selectine on non-adherent platelets showed
mainly the same trend as the platelet
The differences between values are not
significant (analysis was done by SPSS
software one-way analysis of variance).
Platelet activation Physiology can be
initiated by several different ways such as
trauma, contacting with adhered platelets,
According to the test setup of platelet
activation, it is a suspension of platelet rich
plasma which is put on the samples so it
can be said, that platelets first adhere to the
surfaces and then they release some
granules consists of adenosine
Thromboxine A2 which activates the
Although the differences are not
significant statistically the median line of
each bar shows the amount of platelet
activation and it can be seen in 4-layer
TiO2 the median line has smallest amount
among the others.
Table 4. Platelet adhesion.
Samples Platelet density
I Layer 0.32
II Layers 0.37
III Layers 0.45
IV Layers 0.23
V Layers 0.2
TiO2 film coating on 316L stainless steel for blood compatibility
Nanomed J, Vol. 1, No. 3, Spring 2014 135
Figure 6. SEM micrographs of platelets adhered on
(A) Bare stainless steel 316L (B) 4 TiO2 layers
coated stainless steel.
Figure 7. Expression of the P-selectine (CD62P)
on platelet measured by flow cytometry after 45
min contact with the TiO2 surfaces. Bars indicate
median and quartiles.
Titanium oxide thin films have been
successfully synthesized by sol-gel
technique from 1 to 5 layers. Single-layer
film thickness was determined 46 nm, and
it consisted of embedded nm-scale TiO2
particles. Hemocompatibility was
evaluated to reach 63% longer clotting
time for 5-layer TiO2 film, although
there was no significant difference
between platelet activation and adhesion.
Four-layer TiO2 film had the lowest
amount of platelet activity, which can be
considered as the optimum condition in
that protein adsorption and platelet
repulsion interaction. It was found that the
coated samples had better blood
compatibility than bare 316L SS, and the
sample with 4-layer TiO2 film showed the
best behavior of blood compatibility.
Towards this end, it will be necessary to
conduct in vivo trial to establish the
validity of these preliminary findings.
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