Additively manufactured BaTiO3 composite scaffolds: a novel strategy for load bearing bone tissue engineering applications

Elena Mancuso, Lekha Shah, Swati Jindal, Cecile Serenelli, Zois Tsikriteas, Hamideh Khanbareh, Annalisa Tirella

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44 Citations (Scopus)
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Piezoelectric ceramics, such as BaTiO3, have gained considerable attention in bone tissue engineering applications thanks to their biocompatibility, ability to sustain a charged surface as well as improve bone cells’ adhesion and proliferation. However, the poor processability and brittleness of these materials hinder the fabrication of three-dimensional scaffolds for load bearing tissue engineering applications. For the first time, this study focused on the fabrication and characterisation of BaTiO3 composite scaffolds by using a multi-material 3D printing technology. Polycaprolactone (PCL) was selected and used as dispersion phase for its low melting point, easy processability and wide adoption in bone tissue engineering. The proposed single-step extrusion-based strategy enabled a faster and solvent-free process, where raw materials in powder forms were mechanically mixed and subsequently fed into the 3D printing system for further processing.
PCL, PCL/hydroxyapatite and PCL/BaTiO3 composite scaffolds were successfully produced with high level of consistency and an inner architecture made of seamlessly integrated layers. The inclusion of BaTiO3 ceramic particles (10% wt.) significantly improved the mechanical performance of the scaffolds (54 ± 0.5 MPa) compared to PCL/hydroxyapatite scaffolds (40.4 ± 0.1 MPa); moreover, the presence of BaTiO3 increased the dielectric permittivity over the entire frequency spectrum and tested temperatures. Human osteoblasts Saos-2 were seeded on scaffolds and cellular adhesion, proliferation, differentiation and deposition of bone-like extracellular matrix were evaluated. All tested scaffolds (PCL, PCL/hydroxyapatite and PCL/BaTiO3) supported cell growth and viability, preserving the characteristic cellular osteoblastic phenotype morphology, with PCL/BaTiO3 composite scaffolds exhibiting higher mineralisation (ALP activity) and deposited bone-like extracellular matrix (osteocalcin and collagen I).
The single-step multi-material additive manufacturing technology used for the fabrication of electroactive PCL/BaTiO3 composite scaffolds holds great promise for sustainability (reduced material waste and manufacturing costs) and it importantly suggests PCL/BaTiO3 scaffolds as promising candidates for load bearing bone tissue engineering applications to solve unmet clinical needs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112192
JournalMaterials Science and Engineering: C
Early online date19 May 2021
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Dr. John Kelly (Ulster University, UK) for the support with the mechanical characterisation, Dr. Olga Tsikou (The University of Manchester, UK) for the provision of Saos-2 cells, and both Dr. Līga Stīpniece and Dr. Kristīne Šalma-Ancāne (Riga Technical University, Latvia) for having supplied the HA powder. This work was financially supported by Ulster University (Research Challenge Fund, 2018 competition) and The North West Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (NW CAM) Project , a European Union's INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). The views and opinions in this document do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission or the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). If you would like further information about NWCAM please contact the lead partner, Catalyst, for details.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)


  • Additive manufacturing
  • Barium titanate
  • Bone tissue engineering
  • Composite scaffolds
  • Extrusion-based technology
  • PCL


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