Researchers Upcycle Plastic Bottles into Prosthetic Limbs

Artificial limbs made from water bottles kill two birds with one stone: combatting pollution and saving on costs.

Prosthetic made from plastic bottles. / Image: DMU
Prosthetic made from plastic bottles. / Image: DMU

The world’s unfortunate pollution habit has been in news a lot lately. Whether it’s sea animals found caught in garbage, or scientists pulling plastic up from the deepest parts of the ocean, it’s never good news. However, a recent article from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) reported that researchers are putting recycled plastic to good use. Apparently they’ve found a way to manufacture a prosthetic limb socket from recycled plastic bottles.

A senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at DMU ground the bottles down into a granulated material and spun polyester yarns that were then heated to into a solid, lightweight material he molded into the limbs. While using recycled materials is good for the environment, the biggest benefit is the cost savings. Producing a prosthetic socket from recycled plastic costs just $12, compared to the current industry average of $6,100. The team at DMU created two sockets and took them to India for trials on two patients: one who had his leg amputated above the knee, and one how had his amputated below the knee. The next step is a larger-scale study so that the design can be personalized to meet patients’ individual needs.

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