Scientists have been able to turn plastic bottles into prostheses
Prostheses made from plastic bottles can save health care providers millions of dollars and at the same time help solve the environmental pollution caused by plastic waste.
An expert at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester has successfully produced the first prosthetic limbs made from recycled plastic bottles. Dr. K Kandan, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at DMU, found that he could crush plastic bottles and use granular materials to spin polyester fibers, heat them and make them into a solid but light material which can be made into an artificial limb. The cost of producing an artificial leg in this way only costs about 12 USD/unit compared to 6,000 USD/unit today.
Dr. Kandan, also a deputy director of the DMU's Institute of Science and Technology, said the breakthrough could address the gap between thousands-of-dollars prosthetic limbs and affordable prostheses. Besides, it also helps solve the problem of plastic pollution.
"Recycling plastic and providing affordable prosthetics are two major global issues that we need to address. We want to develop cost-effective yet comfortable and durable prostheses for amputated patients." - said Kandan.
The project is funded by the Global Challenges Research Funding. Its responsibility is supporting advanced research to address the challenges faced by developing countries.
Dr. Kandan said: "There are many people in developing countries who will really benefit from quality prosthetic limbs, but unfortunately, they don't have enough money to buy them. The purpose of this project was to identify cheaper materials to help such people and we did it. "
Currently, Dr. Kandan is cooperating with an Indian organization, Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahavata Samiti. This is the world's largest organization for rehabilitation for people with disabilities. Other partners include associates at Southampton University and Strathclyde University.
Two of the affordable prosthetic limbs were brought to India for testing on two patients. One person has an amputated leg above the knee and one person has an amputated leg below the knee. Both patients were very happy and really impressed with the new prosthetic leg. They said it was quite light and easy for them to move around. Besides, it is also very airy and allows air to flow continuously, the characteristics that are perfect for dealing with hot climates in India.
Dr. Kandan is seeking to expand the scope of the research by early testing of prosthetics on many people in different countries to be able to adjust the size and characteristics of the prostheses to suit the patients in each geographical area.
Moreover, in the future, Kandan also wants to create prosthetic limbs for different patients with amputated limbs. According to one estimate, more than 100 million people worldwide have an amputation. Diabetes and traffic accidents are two of the leading causes of amputation and sadly the number of amputated cases is constantly increasing.
At the same time, about 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, but only 7% of them are recycled and the rest is taken to landfills or thrown into the ocean. Recognizing the problem of plastic pollution and the harmful effects of plastic bottles, Kansai was determined to somehow reuse them for a more useful purpose. He hoped that the use of plastic bottles would help boost the circulating economy, solve the plastic waste problem and create prosthetic limbs more affordable for people in developing countries.
More than 1 billion people worldwide are believed to be living with a physically disabled body, and about 190 million people are experiencing difficulties in their daily lives because of the absence of prosthetic limbs. It is estimated that 80% of people with disabilities live in low- and middle-income countries, where there is a high demand for prosthetics.
By: Daniel Collins