Artificial limbs made from plastic water bottles, which could save healthcare providers millions of dollars and help tackle pollution simultaneously, were showcased at Dubai Expo 2020 on Thursday.
The technology was developed by Dr Karthikeyan Kandan, a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at the De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) at the UK pavilion at Expo 2020.
Dr Kandan 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 moulded into prosthetic limbs.
“The cost of producing a prosthetic socket this way is just £10 (Dh 49), compared to the current industry average of around £5,000 (Dh 24,552.17) each,” explained the doctor.
“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,” Dr Kandan said during a demonstration organised 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 seven per cent 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,” the lecturer added.
“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 stated.
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