Plastination

body worlds

Plastination is a technique used in anatomy to preserve bodies or body parts. The water and fat are replaced by certain plastics, yielding specimens that can be touched, do not smell or decay, and even retain most properties of the original sample. There are four steps in the standard process of plastination: fixation, dehydration, forced impregnation in a vacuum, and hardening. Water and lipid tissues are replaced by curable polymers. Curable polymers used by plastination include silicone, epoxy and polyester-copolymer.

Fixation simply means that the body is embalmed, usually in a formaldehyde solution, in order to halt decomposition. After any necessary dissections take place, the specimen is then placed in a bath of acetone. Under freezing conditions, the acetone draws out all the water and replaces it inside the cells. The specimen is then placed in a bath of liquid polymer, such as silicone rubber, polyester or epoxy resin. By creating a vacuum, the acetone is made to boil at a low temperature. As the acetone vaporizes and leaves the cells, it draws the liquid polymer in behind it, leaving a cell filled with liquid plastic. The plastic must then be cured with gas, heat, or ultraviolet light, in order to harden it.

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