Hemp Prosthesis Start-up Wins Grant

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Eco TEK Industries, Wilmington, North Carolina, a start-up company that makes hemp-based prostheses, won a $10,000 micro-grant from NC IDEA, a private foundation in North Carolina that supports "high-growth entrepreneurial endeavors," according to its website. Eco TEK Industries fabricates prostheses using industrial hemp fiber as an alternative to carbon fiber. Kyle Trivisonno, CTP, the company's owner, told the Port City Daily that the material has the strength and lightness of carbon fiber, but at less cost and without the potential health effects.

Trivisonno, who is also a prosthetic technician at Atlantic Prosthetic Services, Wilmington, fabricated a prototype of the prosthesis for a test subject who took fourth place in a 5k run while using the device. He thinks the material could also be used in applications that currently use fiberglass, including boats and recreational vehicles.

"I love what I do; I love being a technician—you get to see real tangible change in people's lives," Trivisonno told the newspaper. "But the materials we work with are very caustic. Carbon fiber is really bad for breathing it in, getting it on your skin. Carbon fiber is about 100 times as bad of a skin irritant as fiberglass."

While other carbon fiber alternatives exist, Trivisonno said, many of them are synthetic and the production process can produce toxic byproducts.