Prosthetic Limb Socket Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Artificial limbs made from plastic water bottles that could save healthcare providers millions of dollars and help tackle pollution at the same time were showcased by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) at Expo2020 yesterday.

Dr. Karthikeyan Kandan, senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at DMU, a founding partner of the UK Pavilion, found he could grind the plastic bottles down and use the granulated material to spin polyester yarns. They could then be heated up to form a solid yet lightweight material that can be molded into prosthetic limbs.

UK Pavillion
Image Source: De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)

The cost of producing a prosthetic socket this way is just £10, compared to the current industry average of around £5,000 each. This breakthrough could help address the gap between high-performance prostheses that cost thousands of pounds and affordable prostheses that lack quality and durability – as well as help solve the problem of plastic pollution.

“Upcycling of recycled plastics and offering affordable prostheses are two major global issues that we need to tackle. We wanted to develop a prosthetic limb that was cost-effective yet comfortable and durable for amputee patients,” Dr. Kandan said at a demonstration organized at the UK Pavilion as part of the Arab Health Reception.

It is estimated that more than 100 million people worldwide have had a limb amputated. Diabetes and traffic accidents are two of the biggest causes of lower-limb amputation – both of which are continuously on the rise. Meanwhile, around one million plastic water bottles are bought every minute yet only 7% are recycled, with the rest leaking into landfills or 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 plastic bottles cannot be recycled and reused for the same purpose, so it’s up to us to find new uses for them. 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,” Dr. Kandan added.

Press Release: De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)

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