3 August 2016

Titanium-3-gold found to be the hardest known biocompatible compound

Crystal structure of beta titanium-3 gold Crystal structure of beta titanium-3 gold

Scientists discover that a new titanium compound is four times harder — and can last much longer — than what is currently being used for medical implants.

First, some background

The search for new hard materials is often challenging, but strongly motivated by the vast application potential such materials hold. For example, titanium is widely used for dental implants, artificial knee and hip joints, and heart stents because of its strength, water resistance and compatibility with the body. Despite its strength, pure titanium is still not hard enough for a number of medical devices and generally requires replacement every decade.

What is the finding?

Scientists at Rice University, the National MagLab, Texas A&M University and University of Texas discovered that a new compound, titanium-3-gold (β-Ti3Au), is four times harder when compared to pure titanium, making this new alloy as hard as some steels. In addition to the hardness, researchers learned that this titanium gold compound doesn’t wear out as quickly, meaning there is an extended lifetime of the material. Ttitanium-3-gold is also biocompatible, making it the hardest known biocompatible compound.

Why is this important?

Because of its hardness, reduced wear rates, and biocompatibility, titanium-3-gold could be well-suited for use in medical applications that are currently being served by titanium alone, including dental, orthopedic, and prosthetic devices.

Who did the research?

E. Svanidze1, T. Besara2, M.F. Ozaydin3, C.S. Tiwary4, J.K. Wang1, S. Radhakrishnan4, S. Mani5, Y. Xin2, K. Han2, H. Liang3, T. Siegrist2, P.M. Ajayan4, E. Morosan1,4

1Department of Physics and Astronomy, Rice University, 2National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Florida State University, 3Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University, 4Materials Science and NanoEngineering, Rice University, 5Department of Translational Molecular Pathology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Why did they need the MagLab?

Due to the hardness of the material, our custom-built high-intensity x-ray diffractometer available at the MagLab was used in order to structurally characterize the compound. The hardness measurements and the initial TEM were also performed at the MagLab utilizing the state-of-the-art materials characterization facilities here.

Details for scientists

For more information, contact Theo M Siegrist.


  • Research Area: Condensed Matter Technique Development
  • Research Initiatives: Materials
  • Facility / Program: DC Field
  • Year: 2016
Last modified on 4 August 2016