Kim Reuter, a researcher at the National Institute for Aviation Research, holds a new battlefield splint May 22 that she and others have helped develop for the mass market. (Travis Heying / The Wichita Eagle via AP)
WICHITA, KAN. — Researchers at the National Institute for Aviation Research, experts on aircraft composites, are closer to branching into another field of creativity.
They are about a year and a half away from developing a medical battlefield splint based on composite materials they grew accustomed to testing for the aerospace industry.
NIAR began developing the splint in 2011 after it got a $1.39 million federal grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, NIAR said in a written statement.
Kim Reuter, a senior researcher at NIAR, and Paul Wooley, the chief scientist at the Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research, said they are seeking a patent for the device.
“The development of the splint has been going very well, and we’re confident that there are many applications for its use in civilian life,” Wooley said.
NIAR is known primarily as one of the world’s prominent testing and research institutes regarding aerospace safety. So the idea that scientists there are developing a device for the medical industry is unusual, Wooley said.
But NIAR director John Tomblin years ago said that his researchers work a lot with new composite materials and might be able to help develop ideas for the medical industry.
The new splint looks like a bit like a strap that can be taped under a heel and on either side of an injured leg. The advantage of this splint over previous devices is that the resins used in the splint will harden much faster, Reuter said.
Similar types of splints now in use take up to 20 minutes to harden. But with the new one, she said, “we’re looking at under two minutes.”
The new splint also is portable and lightweight.
“Medics already carry a huge load of equipment, so simple is better when you’re in the heat of the moment,” she said.
“There is quite a good market for this.”