Low-Cost Lower Limb Prosthetic from Agricultural Waste


The researchers of New Castle University and Universiti Malaysia Perlis have made a low-cost prosthetic socket as partners. They used locally derived natural fibres from agricultural waste that will benefit the local community’s economy directly. Moreover, the project is a joint research program between the two universities. It is also a part of the Going Global Partnership that the British Council manages with MIGHT (Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology).

Project Grant: Strengthens the Capacity and Collaboration

The grant gives financial support for strengthening the capacity and collaborating activities. They are for developing and sustaining medium- and long-term relationships that applicant institutions propose in partnership with the UK and other countries.

Project Leads

Associate Professor Mohd Shukry Abdul Majid and Fauziah Mat from the School of Mechatronic Engineering are the projects leads. Along with UniMAP, Associate Professor Kheng Lim Goh from Newcastle University and Professor Tom Joyce

Professor Tom Joyce said,

“The UniMAP has outstanding people, excellent facilities and is well known for composite material research expertise under the strong leadership of Assoc. Prof. Shukry,”

He further added,

“We are delighted to be able to partner with the UniMAP team to work on this project for the benefit of the many people who need lower limb prosthetics.”

Natural Fibers: Kenaf and Pineapple Leaf

Professor Shukry and Fauziah are working on the project specifically to exploit natural fibres, for example, kenaf fibres or pineapple leaf fibres. It will help in reinforcing the used plastic that will make the socket of the lower limb.

UniMAP is significantly an expert in creating novel composite materials using synthetic and natural fibres. They use the fibres in marine, construction industry and land transport.

Associate Professor Shukry said,

“The current prosthetic sockets are made from a mould that is derived from the residual limb. This ensures that the best possible design with a comfortable and effective fit can be achieved. The prosthesis is laminated by carbon or glass fibres reinforcing plastics, which are lightweight and offer good flexibility.”

Material Cost for the Prosthetic Sockets

The world is moving away from relying on oil and gas, the main sources of plastic and carbon fibre. Hence, the material required for making prosthetic sockets can be more expensive because they are harder to obtain.

The REL project focuses on natural fibre derivatives of waste generated from local agricultural industries. It will replace the synthetic fibres and reinforce the plastic sockets as a sustainable medical device.

Environmental Impact of the Prosthesis

The making of this prosthetic socket is complex and comprises multiple stages of the production process. Hence the idea of natural fibres will not lower the negative impact on the environment alone. It is a life cycle, and every stage requires energy, producing solid wastes and emitting greenhouse gas and energy consumption.

What is the life cycle of the prosthesis?

Researchers create the prosthetic socket, sell it, users use it, and then the users dispose of the prosthesis. Moreover, after the consumer uses it, another consumer cannot use it. However, recycling it and sending it to the waste stream is possible.

If the latter is preferable, the device loses its plastic and natural fibres in addition to the energy. Hence, making the device recyclable can save energy and material.

What is the environmental impact of the prosthetic device?

Associate Professor Goh conducted a life-cycle assessment to find out the environmental impact of the prosthesis at every stage in the life cycle. The idea is to identify opportunities to reduce the overall impact of the device. Although the assessment isn’t easy and straightforward, it will ensure the prosthetic device meets the requirements of the medical device.

Professor Joyce knows how to discover problems and the cause of issues in medical devices in due time. His invaluable expertise and guidance will ensure the device is environmentally friendly, making sure the regulatory body approves it.

Professor Goh said,

“We will embrace an ecologically sustainable approach, with no waste build-up anywhere; leftover materials energy from one product stage will become raw materials for other industry. The best part of this is that the feasibility study will help to bring out novel ideas that if carefully put together could potentially represent a step-change approach to the development of the green prosthetic socket.”

He further added,

“By virtue of its economy, Perlis produces a lot of agricultural waste, such as pine apple leaf fibers. Given that the natural fibers are sequestrated carbon, there are advantages of turning the fibers to good use from a sustainability perspective. This will not only meet the objectives of UN SDG 12 for responsible consumption and production but also raise our ambitions to establish an ecosystem that embraces the local processing and supply of the natural fibers, fabrication of the prosthesis, and finally, the recycling industry, all of which could be carried out by the local workforce.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here