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Plastic limb splint could provide instant treatment for broken bones

Extreme sports fans could soon have instant medical treatment for broken limbs that occur in remote locations, following the design of a unique, versatile portable plastic splint, which has won an international design award.

The pioneering First Aid Splint is designed to protect and aid the recovery of damaged bones when the patient is in isolated conditions that are difficult to reach by medical teams and should provide aid to the 45,000 victims of snow sport injuries which occur every year.

The splint applies rigidness and heat quickly to the limb via a special gel created by a chemically reactive metal strip and saturated sodium acetate solution. It was devised as part of an international collaboration between Sheffield Hallam University and the Institut Superieur de Plasturgie d'Alencon (ISPA), France, to explore the lightweight, pliable properties of plastic.

MA Industrial Design students at Sheffield Hallam University, Ching-Sui Kao, from Taiwan and Geremi Durand, from St Ettiene, France, joined engineering student Maxime Ducloux from the ISPA plastic centre of excellence to design the First Aid Splint, which incorporates essential medical treatment with convenience.

The innovative splint was conceived as part of a Design and Innovation in Plasturgy competition to design an object where the main element in plastic. The only UK representatives, Sheffield Hallam University, scooped two of four prizes in the February biannual competition, including the Jury's Grand prize for the First Aid Splint, beating over forty submissions.

Paul Chamberlain, professor of design at Sheffield Hallam University said: "Plastic has surprising uses that are not currently being explored and this competition is a great way to start exploring those possibilities.

"It's a great honour that the innovation and quality of design from our students has allowed them to walk away with half of the available prizes in an international competition. This acclaim is great news for their future careers and employability.

"The experience of working in overseas partnerships has also been invaluable in increasing their skills in team work, international communication, distance working and appreciating cultural differences."

Six teams of two Sheffield Hallam University students, and one ISPA, also addressed the social stigma of mobility aids for users and ways to increase their lifestyle appeal. Winning the category of Plastic on Us, a trophy and E5,000, the team exploited new materials to provide new features and forms for walking aids in the form of O'Leg. Students Jonathan Grant, from Cambridge and Faustine Le Berre from Annecy, France have created a fashionable, adjustable and lightweight support to appeal to sports enthusiasts and a growing aging population.

Two other competition categories, sponsored by the French Plastic Industry, included Plastic in the Home and Plastic Around Us.

The innovative designs are currently available for viewing in Alencon in France, and although in its initial stage, projects are seeking funding and development opportunities.

Lorna Branton | alfa
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