Prosthetic limbs made from recycled plastic bottles

Dr Karthikeyan Kandan, senior lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) in the UK, developed a method to create prosthetic limb sockets made from recycled plastic bottles.

Around the world, more than 100 million people have had a limb amputated for a number of reasons, ranging from diabetes to traffic accidents. The number of people with a physical disability lies much higher in developing countries, because of poor nutrition and healthcare. Prosthetic limbs are very expensive; the current industrial average lies around € 6000 for a high-performance prothesis.

Dr Kadan’s aim is to close the gap between protheses that cost thousands of euros and affordable protheses that lack quality and durability. By grounding down plastic bottles, the material was used to spin polyester yarn, which can be heated to form a solid yet lightweight material that can be moulded into prosthetic limbs.

Using this method, the cost of producing a prosthetic socket drops to about € 15, in addition to tackling the problem of plastic pollution. Especially people in developing countries would benefit from this project.

Dr Kandan worked with the Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahavata Samiti (BMVSS) in Jaipur, India, the world’s largest organisation for rehabilitating disabled people, as well as prosthetic experts from the Malaviya National Institute of Technology (also in Jaipur), the University of Salford, University of Southampton and University of Strathclyde.

The recycled plastic protheses were tested out by two patients in India, one of whom had his leg amputated above the knee and the other below. Both were impressed with the material’s lightweight and breathability, as well as the prothesis’s ease to walk with.

Photos: De Montfort University Leicester