Researchers at the National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics (NCPO) at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, are hoping to develop a method to create biodegradable, sustainable materials for use in prosthetic sockets.
“Prosthetic limbs are usually made from acrylic resins, supported by either glass or carbon fiber to provide structural strength,” principal researcher Carl Schaschke, PhD, explained to Chemistry World. “However, these materials are difficult to source in developing countries and require expensive fume-extraction equipment due to the toxic vapors produced when working with acrylic resins.”
The team’s investigations were purportedly inspired by automotive companies such as BMW and Audi, which currently use plant fibers to reinforce the plastic in their door panels. Schaschke’s team has tested vegetable and animal fibers such as flax, silk, and wool in an almost-vapor-free polyurethane-based resin.
“The initial idea was to see how the new fibers reinforce the composite,” team chemist Andrew Campbell, PhD, was quoted as saying. “We are now at a stage where we are testing experimental joint sockets for overall strength using a set of fibers that give the best reinforcing effects.”
According to Chemistry World, the team hopes that these “green” materials could make it easier for people in developing economies and disaster areas to source materials they need to create prostheses.