Researchers create first-of-its-kind, ultra-cost effective prosthetic out of recycled plastic water bottles
An expert engineer at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has successfully manufactured the world’s first prosthetic limb socket by upcycling used plastic water bottles.
Dr Karthikeyan Kandan, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at DMU, found he could grind the plastic bottles down and use the granulated material to spin polyester yarns, which can then be heated up to form a solid yet lightweight material that can be moulded into prosthetic limbs.
Highlighting the potentially substantial financial savings for healthcare providers, the researchers state that the cost of producing a prosthetic socket using this method is just £10, compared to the current industry average of around £5,000 each.
Dr Kandan, who is also Associate Director of the Institute of Engineering Sciences at DMU, said the breakthrough could address the gap between high-performance prosthesis that cost thousands of pounds and affordable prostheses that lack quality and durability – as well as helping to tackle the growing problem of plastic pollution.
“Upcycling of recycled plastics and offering affordable prosthesis are two major global issues that we need to tackle,” he said.
“We wanted to develop a prosthetic limb that was cost-effective yet comfortable and durable for amputee patients.”
The upcycling project was funded by the Global Challenges Research Funding (GCRF), which supports research into solutions for problems faced by the developing world. It was also backed by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the independent UK body that represents the diversity of medical science.
“There are so many people in developing countries who would really benefit from quality artificial limbs but unfortunately cannot afford them,” continued Dr Kandan.
“The aim of this project was to identify cheaper materials that we could use to help these people, and that’s what we have done.”
Dr Kandan worked with the Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahavata Samiti (BMVSS) in India – the world’s largest organisation for rehabilitating disabled people – as well as prosthetic experts from the University of Salford, University of Southampton, University of Strathclyde and India’s Malaviya National Institute of Technology.
“We manufactured the socket at DMU and then travelled to India to trial it with two patients – one who had his leg amputated above the knee, and one who had his leg amputated below the knee,” explained Dr Kandan.
“Both patients were really impressed – they said the prosthetic was lightweight and easy to walk with, and that it allowed air to flow to the rest of their leg, which is ideal for the hot climate in India.”
Following the creation of a successful prototype, Dr Kandan is now planning to conduct a larger-scale study with more participants from other countries in order to adapt the design to meet patient’s individual needs.
“People have their limbs amputated for a number of reasons – from diabetes and infection to accidents and injuries,” he said.
“We want to further develop the design so that the prosthetic limb can be custom-made to meet each patient’s needs.”
It is estimated that more than 100 million people worldwide have had a limb amputated, with diabetes and traffic accidents being the two leading causes of lower-limb amputation.
Additionally, approximately one million plastic water bottles are bought every minute yet only 7 percent are recycled, with the majority ending up at landfill or in the ocean.
“There are some really scary statistics about how much plastic there is polluting our oceans and the planet. One of the biggest problems is that the plastic bottles cannot be recycled and re-used for the same purpose, so it’s up to us to find new uses for them,” added Dr Kandan.
“Our design has significant potential to promote the circular economy for plastic by using recycled plastic yarns to manufacture affordable prosthetic limbs – especially for amputees in developing countries.
“Our work will help restore mobility to the millions of amputees in low- and middle-income countries and will undoubtedly have a major positive impact on public health and welfare.”https://thiis.co.uk/researchers-create-first-of-its-kind-ultra-cost-effective-prosthetic-out-of-recycled-plastic-water-bottles/https://i0.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/prosthetic-limbs-out-of-plastic-bottles.jpg?fit=700%2C500&ssl=1https://i0.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/prosthetic-limbs-out-of-plastic-bottles.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1NewsroomThird SectorAcademy of Medical Sciences. DMU,Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahavata Samiti,De Montfort University Leciester,Global Challenges Research Funding,Institute of Engineering Sciences,Mechanical Engineering,plastic,plastic bottle,prosthetics,University of Salford,University of Southampton,University of StrathclydeAn expert engineer at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has successfully manufactured the world's first prosthetic limb socket by upcycling used plastic water bottles.Dr Karthikeyan Kandan, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at DMU, found he could grind the plastic bottles down and use the granulated material to spin polyester yarns, which...Calvin BarnettCalvin Barnettcalvin@thiis.co.ukAdministratorTHIIS Magazine