Highly crosslinked polyethylene polymers (XLPE) are used in many human-contact applications that require assurance on aspects of durability, longevity and safety. The work described in this paper focuses on applications in the medical field and in the construction industry. These are related to the use of XL-UHMWPE for articulating surfaces in orthopaedic implants particularly in total hip and knee replacements, and the use of XL-HDPE for potable water pipes. Safety, performance and durability of the end-use products are mandatory for their approval and use in such applications. However, it has long been recognised that the stabilisation of such highly crosslinked polymers by commercial antioxidants (AO) faces many challenges including the possible interference of the AOs with the crosslinking step, as well as the issues of safety associated with AO leaching and migration of into the human-environment. Here, the effect of AOs on the long-term oxidative stability of the end-use polymer artefacts in these applications is examined and compared with that obtained with some new alternative stabilisation systems. Results show that, in both applications, it was possible to achieve superior levels of retention of the AO in the polymer and long-term thermal stabilising (LTTS) performance (ageing) with minimum interference with the crosslinking process, thereby addressing issues of stabilisation, health and safety of polymers used in direct contact with the human environment.
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© 2018 American Institute of Physics. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and AIP Publishing. The following article appeared in Durability of crosslinked polyethylene in human-contact applications: Stabilisation challenges. S. Al-Malaika* and C. Jefferies. AIP Conference Proceedings 2018 1981:1 and may be found at https://doi.org/10.1063/1.5045864