Technology 3 min read

Researchers Turn Plastic Water Bottles into Prosthetic Limbs

Scientists found a way to produce environment friendly and low cost prosthetic limbs -- by recycling and using plastic water bottles.

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Researchers at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have figured out a way to turn plastic water bottles into prosthetic limbs. Not only could this save healthcare providers millions of dollars, but it can also help tackle pollution at the same time.

About 185,000 amputations occur in the United States every year. The reasons for amputated limbs vary, with peripheral arterial diseases and diabetes being the primary causes.

What’s more, about 55 percent of people with diabetes who have had a lower extremity amputation may have to amputate the second leg within two to three years.

Meanwhile, over a million plastic water bottles are purchased every minute, but only 7 percent get recycled. The rest of the plastics either leak into landfill or find their way to the ocean.

Now an expert at DMU has found a way to solve both problems.

In a statement, a senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at DMU, Dr. K Kandan, said:

“Upcycling of recycled plastics and offering affordable prosthesis 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.”

That was what he did. Dr. K Kandan successfully manufactured a first-of-its-kind prosthetic limb socket from recycled plastic bottles.

Creating Prosthetic Limbs Out Of Plastic Bottles

prosthetic limbs
The first-of-its-kind prosthetic limb socket from recycled plastic bottles. | Image Credit: De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)

To create the prosthetic limbs, the researcher collected tons of plastic bottles and ground them down. He then used the resulting granulated material to spin polyester yarns. After applying heat, the material got soft enough to mold into prosthetic limbs that are solid, yet lightweight.

Perhaps the best part of this method is the low cost. Unlike the industry standards that are priced at over $6,000 USD, it only costs $12 USD to make prosthetic limbs using recycled plastic bottles.

After manufacturing the socket at DMU, the researcher traveled down to India for trial. Two patients — one with a leg amputated above the knee, and the other, below the knee — got to try out the new plastic bottle made prosthetic limb.

According to Dr. Kandan, both patients were impressed. They reported that the prosthetic was lightweight and easy to walk in. Also, it allowed airflow to the rest of their leg.

The researcher noted:

“There are so many people in developing countries who would really benefit from quality artificial limbs but unfortunately cannot afford them. This project aimed to identify cheaper materials that we could use to help these people, and that’s what we have done.”

Now Kandan is looking to conduct a larger-scale study which will include more people from different countries. That way, he can adapt the design to meet patients’ specific circumstances.

Read More: Microplastics Discovered in 93 Percent of Popular Bottled Water Brands

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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