Using Materials Libraries to Explore Material and Sensory Preference with Amputees

Sarah Wilkes, Caitlin McMullan, Andrew Cook, Graham Pullin, Mark Miodownik

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


    With its roots in the Hands of X project, this study was jointly developed by Caitlin McMullan, a Glasgow-based designer, researcher and below knee amputee, and Sarah Wilkes, a materials researcher at UCL, and takes a participatory approach to research into materials selection for prosthetic limbs. The selection of materials for prosthetic limbs has implications for the wearer beyond function and comfort: Cairns et al. (1) and Sansoni et al. (2) have demonstrated that the appearance of a prosthesis affects its acceptance and that improving aesthetic qualities can help to improve the body image and psychological wellbeing of the wearer. However, despite an increasing number of private initiatives that provide wearers with more materials choice (e.g. The Alternative Limb Project, Open Bionics), relatively little research has been done to systematically explore wearers’ materials, aesthetic and sensory preferences. In this paper, we will discuss the methods used to explore material and sensory preferences, examining the pivotal role of the materials library collection in enabling this research. We will discuss the development of specially made object sets to represent a range of sensory and aesthetic properties (e.g. hard-soft, rough-smooth, sticky-slippery) for use in object-handling tasks coupled with questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. We will also share the findings of this study, which have the potential to direct the materials choices offered by prosthetics manufacturers and limb fitting centres, as well as discussing the potential use of this method to explore the link between specific material properties or textures and phantom limb sensations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages2
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2019
    EventTrent International Prosthetics Symposium 2019 - Manchester, United Kingdom
    Duration: 20 Mar 201922 Mar 2019


    ConferenceTrent International Prosthetics Symposium 2019
    Abbreviated titleTIPS
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


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    • Hands of X

      Cook, A., 2020, University of Dundee.

      Research output: Other contribution

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