The articular cartilage function is to allow the bones in a joint to move without causing excess friction and damage. When this cartilage becomes damaged, the supportive and lubricating mechanisms break down, leading to injuries which can be permanent or take extended periods of time for recovery. Because of its importance in general health and body mobility, the unique lubricating properties of cartilage have been studied for many decades. Many current theories exist to characterize the biphasic and triphasic nature of cartilage; however, an important reason that cartilage is so effective is its viscoelastic nature, which allows elastic and dissipative mechanisms to exist simultaneously. It is desired to derive the material properties of cartilage in order to better understand its mechanical effectiveness. Utilizing a CETR-UMT-3 Tribometer, stress relaxation experiments will be performed on freshly harvested equine cartilage plugs that remain hydrated in a fluid bath. Viscoelastic models, such as the Prony series and fractional derivative, are applied to the experimental data to determine the storage and loss moduli of the sample explants. The storage and loss information characterizes the mechanical response of cartilage, and provides insight into the effectiveness and longevity of biological joints. A comparison will be made between joints that experience similar loads, but undergo different relative motions, to determine if the mechanical properties of cartilage are tailored to joint function. Osteoarthritic cartilage will also be explored for deviations in viscoelastic behavior compared to healthy cartilage. Ultimately, it is hoped that a viscoelastic characterization of articular cartilage will lead to insight into the precursors of osteoarthritis, more advanced prosthetics, and biomimetric applications such as the integration of flexible surfaces in mechanical systems.

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