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Prosthetic limb sockets from plant-based composite materials

Campbell, Andrew and Sexton, Sandra and Schaschke, Carl and Kinsman, Harry and McLaughlin, Brian and Boyle, Martin (2012) Prosthetic limb sockets from plant-based composite materials. Prosthetics and Orthotics International, 36 (2). pp. 181-189. ISSN 0309-3646

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Abstract

There is a considerable demand for lower limb prostheses globally due to vascular disease, war, conflict, land mines and natural disasters. Conventional composite materials used for prosthetic limb sockets include acrylic resins, glass and carbon fibres, which produce harmful gasses and dust in their manufacture. To investigate the feasibility of using a renewable plant oil-based polycarbonate-polyurethane copolymer resin and plant fibre composite, instead of conventional materials, to improve safety and accessibility of prosthetic limb manufacture. Test pieces of the resin with a range of plant fibres (10.0% by volume) were prepared and tensile strengths were tested. Test sockets of both conventional composite materials and plant resin with plant fibres were constructed and tested to destruction. Combinations of plant resin and either banana or ramie fibres gave high tensile strengths. The conventional composite material socket and plant resin with ramie composite socket failed at a similar loading, exceeding the ISO 10328 standard. Both wall thickness and fibre-matrix adhesion played a significant role in socket strength. From this limited study we conclude that the plant resin and ramie fibre composite socket has the potential to replace the standard layup. Further mechanical and biocompatibility testing as well as a full economic analysis is required. Using readily sourced and renewable natural fibres and a low-volatile bio-resin has potential to reduce harm to those involved in the manufacture of artificial limb sockets, without compromising socket strength and benefitting clinicians working in poorer countries where safety equipment is scarce. Such composite materials will reduce environmental impact.