Nanoscale characterization of isolated individual type I collagen fibrils: polarization and piezoelectricity
Piezoresponse force microscopy was applied to directly study individual type I collagen fibrils with diameters of ~100 nm isolated from bovine Achilles tendon. It was revealed that single collagen fibrils behave predominantly as shear piezoelectric materials with a piezoelectric coefficient on the order of 1 pm V-1, and have unipolar axial polarization throughout their entire length. It was estimated that, under reasonable shear load conditions, the fibrils were capable of generating an electric potential up to tens of millivolts. The result substantiates the nanoscale origin of piezoelectricity in bone and tendons, and implies also the potential importance of the shear load-transfer mechanism, which has been the principle basis of the nanoscale mechanics model of collagen, in mechanoelectric transduction in bone.