American Chemical Society

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Polymeric Medical Sutures: An Exploration of Polymers and Green Chemistry

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-11-14, 00:00 authored by Cassandra M. Knutson, Deborah K. Schneiderman, Ming Yu, Cassidy H. Javner, Mark D. Distefano, Jane E. Wissinger
With new K–12 national science standards emerging, there is an increased need for experiments that integrate engineering into the context of society. Here we describe a chemistry experiment that combines science and engineering principles while introducing basic polymer and green chemistry concepts. Using medical sutures as a platform for investigating polymers, students explore the physical and mechanical properties of threads drawn from poly­(ε-caprolactone) samples of different molecular masses and actual purchased absorbable and nonabsorbable medical sutures. An inquiry-based part of the experiment tasks students with designing their own experiment to probe the potential of melt blending poly­(ε-caprolactone) with commercially available polylactide products in order to modify the properties of the “sutures” drawn. Through these lessons students gain an appreciation for the importance of plastics in our society and how scientists are working to develop more sustainable alternatives. Overall, this laboratory experiment provides a feasible, versatile, sophisticated laboratory experience that engages students in a relatable topic and meets many of the Next Generation Science Standards.