In recent years, magnesium (Mg) and its alloy are being studied for their potential use in orthopedic implants with the novel ability to biodegrade after the implant serves its therapeutic function. Pure Mg, by itself, would not be suitable for use in a load-bearing implant application, due to its high corrosion rate and poor tribological properties. However, through proper alloying, this degradable metal is capable of achieving good mechanical properties reasonably similar to bone, a retarded rate of corrosion and enhanced biocompatibility. Previous studies have shown that alloying Mg with aluminum, lithium, rare earth (RE), zinc (Zn), and calcium (Ca) result in lower corrosion rates and enhanced mechanical properties. Despite the growing popularity of Mg and it alloys, there is relatively little information in the literature on their wear performance. In this paper, we report on an investigation of the directional tribological properties of Mg and Mg-Zn-Ca-RE alloy fabricated via two different manufacturing processing routes: as-cast and hot-extruded after casting, with extrusion ratios of 10 and 50. Pure Mg was cast 350°C. After casting, Mg-Zn-Ca-RE alloy was heat-treated at 510°C. Another Mg-Zn-Ca-RE alloy was hot-extruded at 400°C. Dry sliding wear tests were performed on as-cast and hot-extruded pure Mg and Mg-Zn-Ca-RE alloys using a reciprocating test configuration. Wear rate, coefficient of friction and wear coefficient were measured under applied loads ranging from 0.5–2.5N at sliding frequency of 0.2 Hz for 120 cycles, using microtribometery. Wear properties of the extruded specimen were measured in cross-section and longitudinal section. In the longitudinal section studies, wear properties were investigated along the extrusion direction and the transverse direction. Hardness properties were evaluated using microindentation. Cross-section and longitudinal section were indented with a Vickers indenter under applied load of 2.94 N. Alloying and extrusion enhanced the mechanical properties significantly, increased hardness by 80% and wear resistance by 50% compared to pure Mg. Despite the low hardness in both Mg and the Mg alloy cross-sections, the cross-sections for both displayed higher wear resistance compared to the longitudinal section. In the longitudinal section, wear resistance was higher along the transverse direction of the longitudinal section for both Mg and the Mg alloy. The wear coefficient was used to evaluate how the wear behavior of the material varied with respect to alloying, fabrication process, and direction of wear. The wear coefficient of pure Mg decreased as the extrusion ratio increased, thus, increasing the specific wear rate. The opposite behavior was found in the Mg alloy: as the wear coefficient increases, the specific wear rate decreases. The active wear mechanisms observed on the worn surface of Mg were fatigue, abrasive, adhesive and delamination wear. The same wear mechanisms were observed in the Mg alloy except for fatigue wear. Surface microstructure and topographical characterization were conducted using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy mechanical stylus profilometry, and optical profilometry.

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