Designing Medical Disposable Products Using Biodegradable Materials


Alexandra Goodman

Bioengineering Students
Bioengineering  students: Trisha Patnaik, Shriya Anant,  Ashley Tran, Keya Patel, Leah Ju, and Dr. Ngoc Nguyen (Stella Launay is not in photo)

At the Grainger Engineering Open House on March 31 and April 1, a group of undergraduate bioengineering students presented a project on using biodegradable materials for disposable medical products.

Bioengineering majors Leah Ju and Keya Patel were the co-leads on this project; other students on the project were Shriya Anant, Stella Launay, Trisha Patnaik and Ashley Tran.

Engineering students test their inventions on the Bardeen Quad
A typical bandage (top) and the group's prototype lignin-based bandage (bottom).

The students reached out to Dr. Ngoc Nguyen, a staff research scientist at the Illinois Applied Research Institute, whose research focuses include sustainable plastics and lignin-based materials as a substitute for oil-derived plastics.

Nguyen offered the students guidance, as well as materials and laboratory access. Using a material derived from lignin, a waste product from the paper industry, the group created a prototype bandage. The lignin polymer can self-heal, retain its shape, and self-adhere, making it an effective material for bandages.

The group wanted to address waste in the medical field from single-use, disposable items. While single-use products are necessary to control infection and contamination, the group saw an opportunity for biodegradable options that would meet health and safety needs and would reduce the amount of plastic waste in landfills and oceans.

The group look forward to a point where this type of lignin-based bandage and other medical equipment could be made to scale in a cost- and energy-efficient manner, which would have widespread implications in medical waste.

Read more about Dr. Nguyen’s work here. The group's poster is available here.

The photo at the top of the page shows the group of students on April 1, at their table at the Everitt Laboratory during the Engineering Open House.