It began as a project to heal soldiers’ faces faster and with less scarring. Engineers at the University of Texas at Arlington, working with the Army and Northwestern University, created a material consisting of bubbles of different sizes and densities that apply pressure to a wound to hold a dressing or skin graft in place. “Think of this material as smart bubble wrap,” says Eileen Moss Clements, director of research at the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute.

When funding ran out for the original “biomask” project, researchers looked for new applications for the novel technology. They found that the bubbles give prosthetic limbs a custom fit when used as a liner. They also coupled the bubbles with sensors that provide real-time feedback about the prosthetic wearer’s tissues. Using an app, the prosthetic wearer can increase or decrease pressure in the bubbles, preventing slippage or pressure ulcers.