Electropolishing of medical-grade stainless steel in preparation for surface nano-texturing
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The purpose of this work is to investigate the electropolishing of medical grade 316L stainless steel to obtain a clean, smooth and defect free surface in preparation for surface nano-texturing. Electropolishing of steel was conducted under stationary conditions in four electrolyte mixtures: A) 4.5 M H2SO4 + 11 M H3PO4, B) 7.2 M H2SO4 + 6.5 M H3PO4, C) 6.4 M glycerol + 6.1 M H3PO4 and D) 6.1 M H3PO4. The influence of electrolyte composition and concentration, temperature and electropolishing time, in conjunction with linear sweep voltammetry and chronoamperometry, on the stainless steel surface was studied. The activation energies for dissolution of steel in the four electrolyte solutions were calculated. The resulting surfaces of unpolished and optimally-polished stainless steel were characterised in terms of contamination, defects, topography, roughness, hydrophilicity and chemical composition by optical and atomic force microscopies, contact angle goniometry and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. It was found that the optimally polished surfaces were obtained with the following parameters: electrolyte mixture A at 2.1 V applied potential, 80 °C for 10 minutes. This corresponded to the diffusion-limited dissolution of the surface. The root mean square surface roughness of the electropolished surface achieved was 0.4 nm over 2 x 2 μm2. Surface analysis showed that electropolishing led to ultraclean surfaces with reduced roughness and contamination thickness, and with Cr, P, S, Mo, Ni and O enrichment compared to untreated surfaces.
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