Polymeric Medical Sutures: An Exploration of Polymers and Green Chemistry

Cassandra M. Knutson, Deborah K. Schneiderman, Ming Yu, Cassidy H. Javner, Mark D. Distefano, Jane E. Wissinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


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(?-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(?-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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1761-1765
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 14 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge St. Paul Central High School teachers Craig Karlen and Alka Goyal for early testing and feedback for this experiment, Michael Wentzel from Augsburg College, and students of Cassandra Knutson’s AP chemistry classes in spring 2016 and fall 2016. This work was funded through grants from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (Swift 52526), the University of Minnesota Center for Sustainable Polymers (CHE-1413862 and CHE-1136607), and the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) Program of the National Science Foundation (DMR-1559833).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc.


  • Chemical Engineering
  • Collaborative/Cooperative Learning
  • First-Year Undergraduate/General
  • Green Chemistry
  • High School/Introductory Chemistry
  • Industrial Chemistry
  • Inquiry-Based/Discovery Learning
  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Materials Science
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Polymer Chemistry


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