Biological events occurring at the implant-host interface, including protein adsorption are mainly influenced by surface properties of the implant. Titanium alloys, one of the most widely used implants, has shown good biocompatibility primarily through its surface oxide. In this study, a surface sol-gel process based on the surface reaction of metal alkoxides with a hydroxylated surface was used to prepare ultrathin titanium oxide (TiO x) coatings on silicon wafers. The oxide deposited on the surface was then modified by self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) of silanes with different functional groups. Interesting surface morphology trends and protein adhesion properties of the modified titanium oxide surfaces were observed as studied by non-specific protein binding of serum albumin. The surface properties were investigated systematically using water contact angle, ellipsometry, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and atomic force microscopy (AFM) measurements. Results showed that the surface sol-gel process predominantly formed homogeneous, but rough and porous titanium oxide layers. The protein adsorption was dependent primarily on the silane chemistry, packing of the alkyl chains (extent of van der Waals interaction), morphology (porosity and roughness), and wettability of the sol-gel oxide. Comparison was made with a thermally evaporated TiOx-Ti/Si-wafer substrate (control). This method further extends the functionalization of surface sol-gel derived TiO x layers for possible titanium alloy bioimplant surface modification.
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