Strain-induced optical changes in demineralized bone

Michael R. Hardisty, Daniel F. Kienle, Tonya L. Kuhl, Susan M Stover, David P Fyhrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Bone "stress-whitens," becoming visibly white during mechanical loading, immediately prior to failure. Stress-whitening is known to make materials tougher by dissipating mechanical energy. A greater understanding of stress-whitening, both an optical and mechanical phenomenon, may help explain age-related increases in fracture risk that occur without changes in bone mineralization. In this work, we directly measure the optical properties of demineralized bone as a function of deformation and immersing fluid (with different hydrogen-bonding potentials, water, and ethanol). The change in refractive index of demineralized bone was linear: with deformation and not applied force. Changes in refractive index were likely due to pushing low-refractive-index fluid out of specimens and secondarily due to changes in the refractive index of the collagenous phase. Results were consistent with stress-whitening of demineralized bone previously observed. In ethanol, the refractive index values were lower and less sensitive to deformation compared with deionized water, corroborating the sensitivity to fluid hydration. Differences in refractive index were consistent with structural changes in the collagenous phase such as densification that may also occur under mechanical loading. Understanding bone quality, particularly stress-whitening investigated here, may lead to new therapeutic targets and noninvasive methods to assess bone quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number035001
JournalJournal of Biomedical Optics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


  • biomechanics
  • bone
  • collagen fibril
  • Hansen's hydrogen bonding potential
  • refractive index
  • stress whitening
  • surface force apparatus
  • tissues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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